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Florida Republicans criticize the Trump verdict, while Democrats say nobody's above the law

Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks outside Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, May 9, 2024, in New York. Scott attended former President Donald Trump's criminal trial.
Joseph Frederick
Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks outside Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, May 9, 2024, in New York. Scott attended former President Donald Trump's criminal trial.

Florida Republicans on Thursday quickly attacked the conviction of former President Donald Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records, while Democrats said the verdict showed nobody is above the law.

A 12-member jury returned the verdict more than a month after the criminal hush-money trial began in New York and after just one day of deliberations. Trump is the first former president to be convicted of a crime after leaving office.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., called the verdict a “political witch hunt,” while Republican Party of Florida Chairman Evan Power accused the district attorney and judge of “making a mockery of our judicial system,” alleged Democrats engaged in “election interference” and said that “in the real world” Trump “only grows stronger.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been raising money for Trump’s presidential campaign after unsuccessfully seeking the Republican nomination, issued a statement that called the charges against Trump “alleged misdemeanor business records violations from nearly a decade ago.”

DeSantis said the case wouldn’t have moved forward if Trump wasn’t the defendant.

“In America, the rule of law should be applied in a dispassionate, even-handed manner, not become captive to the political agenda of some kangaroo court,” DeSantis said in a statement posted on social media.

But the Florida Democratic Party quickly sent out a fundraising request under the title “34-0.”

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said the verdict shows “our justice system at work!”

“No one is above the law, including the four-time indicted, twice impeached, insurrection inciter and now convicted felon, former President Donald Trump,” Wilson said in a statement.

“There was no witch hunt, no foul play — just the impartial application of justice that treats everyone equally, regardless of who they are,” Wilson added.

The verdict closed a trial in which prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office argued that the former president conspired with associates to make hush-money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was a star witness in the trial. Trump became the first president, current or former, to be criminally indicted last year, when he was charged with 34 separate counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a low-level felony.

Adding to the intense attention on the case is that it came as Trump campaigns to try to defeat President Joe Biden in November and return to the White House.

Trump is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.

How Trump’s conviction could affect his re-election bid has been the subject of much speculation, with one recent poll finding that for roughly two-thirds of voters, a guilty verdict wouldn’t affect their choice in November.

At a news conference after the verdict, Trump promised to appeal and gave an impromptu stump speech.

“We're a nation in decline. Serious decline,” he said. “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. But this was a rigged decision, right from day one. You have a conflicted judge who should have never been allowed to try this case. And we will fight for our constitution. This is long from over.”

The Trump campaign also attempted to raise money off the verdict, sending out an email to supporters with the message: “I was just convicted in a RIGGED political Witch Hunt Trial: I DID NOTHING WRONG! … But with your support at this moment in history, WE WILL WIN BACK THE WHITE HOUSE AND MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”

In a statement, Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler repeated a reaction shared widely by Democrats – including New York Attorney General Letitia James – following the ruling: No one is above the law.

“Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain,” Tyler said. “But 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.”

The verdict marks a victory for Bragg, who in a brief tweet responded simply, “Today, a jury found Donald J. Trump GUILTY on ALL 34 felony counts.”

Jim Turner is a staff writer for News Service of Florida. Contributing reporters Annie McDonough, Peter Sterne and Rebecca C. Lewis are reporters for City & State New York, a sister publication of The News Service of Florida.

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