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The scene in the courtroom when Trump's verdict was announced

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The once and would-be president is now a convicted felon. Former President Trump has been convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. It is a significant legal victory for the Manhattan district attorney, but Trump was defiant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt. It's a rigged trial - a disgrace.

CHANG: NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in the courtroom for the reading of the verdict. She joins us now. Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hey. OK. So can you just describe - what was the scene like in that courtroom today?

BERNSTEIN: Yes. So at about 4:15 p.m., all the parties came back into the court room, and the judge came in. And he said, I'm sending the jury home in 15 minutes. And so we all sat around, waiting for that to happen. And then at about 4:36, the judge came back, and he said, we received a note from the jury at 4:20. They said, they have a verdict. They want 30 more minutes to fill out the forms.

So then we just sat there stock-still until the jury filed back in, and Judge Juan Merchan asked the foreperson, Mr. Foreperson, has the jury reached a verdict? He said, yes, we have. And then the court personnel asked him to read the verdict on each count, beginning with count one. How do you say to count one? Guilty, he said. How do you say to count two? Guilty. And then on through all 34 counts - so fast I could barely type G on my verdict sheet.

CHANG: I imagine. I mean, hearing guilty, guilty, guilty 34 separate times as that was coming out, guilty by guilty by guilty, what was the reaction of people in the courtroom as they were taking in what this verdict means?

BERNSTEIN: So the judge had said no outbursts in the courtroom. As you know, frequently, there are still outbursts, but Trump was absolutely still looking forward. DA Alvin Bragg was right there, and I was right there behind the defense team, so I could really see no one was moving. And then the jury was asked - each one of them - is that your verdict? Each of them said, yes. That also had went very quickly. And then the judge set a sentencing date, and everybody was out of there. And it was all very, very fast.

On the way out, I saw Donald Trump give his son, Eric, who is basically the person running his company now and who's been there many days, sort of a slap on the hand and a tight handshake, which was sort of an unusual acknowledgment of Eric there. He walked out of the court room. Alvin Bragg, the district attorney, looked straight ahead, absolutely impassive. The prosecutors who actually tried the case were pretty stoic, like they always are, but it did look like their shoulders relaxed a little bit after the verdict.

CHANG: Well, I know that in closing arguments, Andrea, the prosecution had said that they had a, quote, "mountain of corroborating evidence." Did you think that that sheer volume of evidence was what persuaded this jury to vote so decisively here - guilty on 34 counts?

BERNSTEIN: Yes, I do think so. And you may remember that the summations on Tuesday took six hours by the prosecution. And part of that was because they were going through these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different records - phone records, tape, invoices, documents. The prosecution did have the testimony of Michael Cohen. And what the defense had argued is, don't rely on it. He's a liar.

Even after the verdict came in, they said to the judge, you should set aside the verdict because we think he committed perjury on the stand. The judge denied that motion. I've covered Cohen for a long time, and he has had a history of lying, but his testimony about this hush money scheme has been consistent since the first time he told it publicly in testimony before Congress in 2019. So the jury clearly picked up on not only what Cohen said, plus all of the testimony from Trump-friendly witnesses, including National Enquirer publisher - former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, some of whose testimony was read back today, where he very clearly said that this was a scheme right from the get-go to buy these stories and bury them.

We also had Trump employees from the White House and Trump Tower. And then there were these two documents, which the prosecution had called smoking guns - handwritten documents from Trump's former chief financial officer and controller showing the reimbursement scheme and then, of course, Donald Trump's signature on all those checks.

CHANG: So Andrea, what specifically happens at this point in the legal proceedings? We're awaiting sentencing, of course.

BERNSTEIN: So sentencing was set for July 11, right before the Republican convention. Trump faces a maximum sentence of one to 34 years for each count. Those are usually served concurrently when there is jail time, but the judge has already said he doesn't necessarily have to bring in jail time. I think - he doesn't have to necessarily impose jail time. I think what we're going to see from Trump is a lot of what we've seen during the trial, which is him trying to undermine this verdict, to say it was the courthouse, to attack the judge, to attack the DA and to say this case is election interference, not the actions in 2016 for which he was convicted 34 times of an E felony in New York state.

CHANG: Historic day. That is NPR's Andrea Bernstein in New York. Thank you so much, Andrea.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Bernstein
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