1200 Weimer Hall | P.O. Box 118405
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-5551

A service of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

© 2024 WUFT / Division of Media Properties
News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Following guilty verdict, fact-checking Trump's claims

Donald Trump motions behind a table in court.
Steven Hirsch
New York Post via AP
Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court during jury deliberations in his criminal hush money trial in New York, Thursday, May 30, 2024.

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

Former President Donald Trump is a convicted felon.

A unanimous jury in the Manhattan case concluded May 30 that Trump was guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records in an alleged scheme to cover up a hush money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

"Victory on November 5th!" Trump wrote on Truth Social soon after the jury read its historic verdict. "Save America!!!"

Trump spoke to reporters briefly after the verdict and his campaign sent out an email. We fact-checked their statements.

"Breaking from Trump: I am a political prisoner!" — Trump campaign email

We rated a similar statement by another speaker False.

There’s no universally accepted definition of "political prisoner," but human rights and international law experts told PolitiFact in April 2023 that political prisoners are targeted specifically for their political beliefs or activities.

Experts told us then that there was no sign the legal proceedings in Trump’s case were unfair or that he was being held without due process, which is a common experience for political prisoners. Political prisoners are also frequently tortured or mistreated, experts said. Trump had legal representation and has a right to appeal.

Being detained or imprisoned is a crucial part of being classified a political prisoner, according to experts and severalavailable definitions. Trump was convicted, but he has not been detained. He’ll face sentencing July 11.

Milena Sterio, a law professor at Cleveland State University College of Law, said there is nothing that signals Trump is a political prisoner. He "was not charged with criminal offenses because of his political beliefs," she said. He was not imprisoned for participating in protests or for expressing dissenting opinions, she said, and he has not suffered any mistreatment of human rights violations.

"Most importantly, he was not held without a trial or due process — his convictions are the result of a relatively lengthy trial," she said.

"This was done by the Biden administration in order to wound or hurt an opponent, a political opponent." — Trump in remarks to reporters

We rated a similar statement by Trump False.

The Manhattan district attorney’s investigation of Trump began in 2018, before Biden was his party’s presidential nominee. District Attorney Alvin Bragg filed the charges in 2023. Trump’s fighting a subpoena lengthened this timeline.

Trump has criticized Bragg for hiring Matthew Colangelo, a former Justice Department prosecutor who, when working for the New York attorney general, investigated Trump. Multiple lawyers told us that seasoned prosecutors commonly move among federal, state and local offices. Reasonable people may question the political wisdom of Bragg’s hire, but it doesn’t prove that Biden has directed the Manhattan investigation.

"The more relevant prior position held by Colangelo is not his DOJ jobs, but the NY AG position in which he participated in the Trump Foundation investigation," University of Missouri law professor Frank O. Bowman III wrote in an email.

"I'd bet that Bragg hired him in part because of his familiarity with the intricacies of Trump's businesses and financial dealings," Bowman, a former local prosecutor in Denver and federal prosecutor in Florida, wrote. "But, again, that proves exactly nothing about Biden influence on the Manhattan case."

"You have a Soros-backed DA." — Trump in remarks to reporters

George Soros is a liberal billionaire and the frequent target of conservatives’ criticism.

There is a tie between Bragg and Soros, but it’s indirect.

Soros did not donate directly to Bragg’s campaign. Soros donated $1 million in May 2021 to Color of Change, a progressive racial justice group that endorsed Bragg and pledged to spend more than $1 million supporting his campaign. Color of Change supported other progressive district attorney candidates, too.

It’s impossible to know whether Soros or Color of Change swayed Bragg’s decisions on investigating Trump. The group’s long-standing focus has been on criminal justice policy and racial equity rather than on Trump’s legal situation.

Soros has long supported prosecutors who seek to reform the criminal justice system. While campaigning, Bragg argued that there’s a separate standard of justice for the rich and powerful than for everyone else.