Lock Him Up: Trump Is now a convicted felon

People react after former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was convicted in his criminal trial outside of Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 30, 2024. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump was unhinged his first time in office. With a criminal conviction under his belt and nothing to lose, there will be no constraints.

This post was originally published on Word In Black.

by Keith Boykin

Donald Trump has been convicted of 34 criminal charges. The unanimous verdict by the New York jury marks the first time in American history that a former U.S. president has been found guilty of a crime. 

Despite Trump’s claim that Black people will relate to his legal troubles, we remember how Trump failed to relate to the Black and brown teenagers in the Central Park Five case that he tried to execute and never apologized after they were exonerated.

The conviction should give Republicans a convenient off-ramp to find a new nominee, but they’re too far down the rabbit hole to use common sense. The Constitution does not prohibit a “convicted felon” from running for president, so the verdict will not end Trump’s presidential campaign. But let this mark the end of the foolish conversation that Trump and Biden are the same. They are not. No matter what President Biden’s weaknesses, there is no other person in American history — past or present — as dangerous to democracy as Donald Trump.

It was not the Biden campaign or the White House that convicted Trump. It was the unanimous verdict of 12 jurors, selected in a transparent process in open court. And while Trump politicized the trial by yapping his mouth at daily press conferences outside the courtroom for six weeks, he never once opened his mouth to testify inside the courtroom under oath.

This is not normal.

Trump complained that the prosecution relied on the testimony of a convicted felon and a porn star to prove its case, but those were the people with whom he chose to associate. Trump hired Michael Cohen to be his lawyer, and Trump engaged in an adulterous sexual encounter with adult film star Stormy Daniels. The Manhattan district attorney didn’t pick those people; Trump did.

The verdict in Trump’s hush money trial is the first of four criminal cases facing the former president. He’s also facing state charges of election interference in Georgia, federal charges for stealing and withholding classified documents in Florida, and federal charges for “conspiracy to defraud” the United States by plotting to overturn the 2020 election results leading up to the January 6 insurrection.

Those are just his criminal trials. 

Trump has also been found liable in multiple civil trials. He was fined $454 million for fraud, $83.3 million for defamation, and ordered to pay a $5 million fine for sexually assaulting a woman in New York. His company was convicted of 17 felonies and ordered to pay a $1.6 million fine. His university was shut down and fined $25 million, and his foundation was shut down and fined $2 million.

Although Trump ran for office in 2016 promising to hire “the best people,” he surrounded himself with people in trouble with the law. The CFO of his company was convicted. His campaign chairman and deputy campaign chair were both convicted. His campaign manager cut a plea deal in a battery case. Three of Trump’s top White House aides — Michael FlynnSteve Bannon, and Peter Navarro — were convicted. Even his lawyers have been indicted and pleaded guilty to crimes.

When Trump first ran for president in 2016, he warned voters that if Hillary Clinton were elected, “it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis” because “she is likely to be under investigation for a long time, concluding, probably, in a criminal trial.” But that’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in today. 

Despite Trump’s campaign mantra to “lock her up,” Hillary Clinton was never arrested, indicted, or convicted of any crime. But Trump has been. He is the constitutional crisis he warned us about. And if he is elected, he will be the first president in history still under criminal investigation and facing criminal trial. At least Richard Nixon had the decency to resign the presidency when he got caught.

What makes the prospect of a Trump presidency even more threatening is that Trump has pledged to pardon the insurrectionists who aided his attempt to overthrow our democracy in 2021. 

For all the unsupported right-wing claims about President Biden protecting Hunter Biden, Biden has done nothing to interfere with the Justice Department’s investigation of his son. Trump, on the other hand, might abuse the power of the presidency to shut down both of his federal criminal cases. And in the unlikely event that he is convicted in one of his federal cases before January 2025, Trump has already indicated that he believes he has the power to pardon himself

I don’t know how many times I can say this is not normal, but it must be said. I’ve worked in politics for 40 years and have studied and taught political science since college. I know from 250 years of history that America has survived crooked presidents and incompetent presidents. We’ve had racist presidents and slave-owning presidents. But we’ve never had a president who obstructed the peaceful transfer of power. And we’ve never elected a president who had just been convicted of a crime.

Some people may not remember the chaos of Trump’s first term in office, but I do. I covered him for five years as a political commentator for CNN. I read his disturbing midnight tweets, watched his belligerent press conferences, witnessed the tear gassing of peaceful protesters, called out his mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, and resisted his attacks on Black people

Trump was unhinged his first time in office, but his worst impulses were constrained by a small group of people who knew better. Now, with a criminal conviction under his belt and nothing to lose, there will be no constraints.

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