When the Verdict Came In, Donald Trump’s Eyes Were Wide Open

It didn’t take long. At 4:20 P.M. on Thursday, the jurors in Donald Trump’s criminal trial sent the judge a note: “We the jury have reached a verdict.” A few minutes later, Judge Juan Merchan read this note aloud in his courtroom, on the fifteenth floor of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Some of the reporters in the packed gallery gasped. Moments before, Merchan had said he planned to dismiss the jurors for the evening. It had seemed that they would need another day, or maybe another week, to come to a decision. How much time could it reasonably take to decide whether or not to brand a former and maybe future President a felon? Not quite two days, it turned out. Trump, sitting at the defense table in a blue tie, looked on impassively. For once, he was abiding by courtroom decorum without any fuss. He’d been sitting at that table for just over six weeks, listening to witnesses and the evidence against him. For much of that time, he seemed to doze, eyes closed, demonstrating nothing but contempt for the thirty-four felony counts he was facing. But now his eyes were open. This wasn’t Michael Cohen shit-talking him or Stormy Daniels describing spanking him with a rolled-up magazine. This was a jury of his peers, ready to render judgment.

Trump brought a smaller entourage to the courtroom on Thursday than he had on other days of the trial. No senators or governors were with him. Only one member of his family, his son Eric, sat behind him, in the first row of the gallery, staring a hole into the back of a uniformed court officer standing between him and his father. Several Trump campaign officials sat in the second row, including Steven Cheung, Trump’s foulmouthed campaign spokesperson, who was frowning. Merchan stepped out of the room while the jury filled out the verdict sheet, and for twenty minutes, the courtroom was silent, save for the occasional crackle of a court officer’s radio, and the wet coughs of a court sketch artist who seemed to be coming down with something. A few times, Trump leaned over to whisper with his lawyers. Andrew Giuliani, the former New York City mayor’s son, who has been attending the trial as a member of the media, tried at one point to leave his seat in the back of the gallery. A court officer barked at him: “Nobody’s leaving—have a seat.” At 4:49 P.M., District Attorney Alvin Bragg entered the courtroom and sat in the gallery behind his prosecutors, across the aisle from Eric Trump and the entourage. Bragg pulled some papers out of a binder and busied himself. Bragg had risked his reputation bringing this complicated and in many ways unsatisfying case against Trump—a case that many compared to charging Al Capone with tax evasion. And, yet, Capone was convicted.

Merchan reappeared. “Bring out the jury, please,” he instructed from the bench. The twelve jurors marched in through a side door at the front of the room. Trump stood and watched as they passed just feet from him. But none of them would look him in the eye. “Has the jury in fact reached a verdict?” Merchan asked, when they were seated. The foreperson, standing in a corner of the jury box, holding a microphone and wearing a blue sweater, said that it had. A court clerk asked the foreman thirty-four questions. How say you to Count One? “Guilty.” How say you to Count Two? “Guilty.” How say you to Count Three? “Guilty.” And so on. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty on all thirty-four counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. On the twenty-fifth “guilty,” one of Trump’s lawyers, Emil Bove, gave a little shake of his head. But Trump himself did not visibly react as these guiltys piled up. There were no cameras in the courtroom to perform for, and so he simply didn’t perform. When the foreperson was finished, each member of the jury was asked to confirm their decision one by one. Trump turned his head and looked at them once more, narrowing his eyes, but otherwise remained expressionless. Bove looked like he’d swallowed a bug.

Merchan thanked the jurors. “You gave this matter the attention it deserved,” he said. At 5:11 P.M., he excused them, and they filed out, averting their eyes again from the man they had just convicted. When they were gone, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche asked Merchan to toss out the verdict. “There’s no way this jury could have reached a verdict without accepting the testimony of Mr. Cohen,” Blanche said, referring to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and the prosecution’s key witness, who’d told the jury that, in the lead-up to the 2016 election, he’d paid illegal hush money to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels at Trump’s express request. Blanche argued to Merchan that Cohen was a liar who’d lied on the stand. But the words sounded limp as they came out of his mouth. Trump glared at Blanche as he spoke.

Merchan denied the motion. Blanche said he had one more request. He asked the judge to set a sentencing date for July, because Trump and his lawyers would need to spend much of June in Florida, preparing his defense in his classified-documents criminal case. “As the Court is aware, President Trump faces other charges in other jurisdictions,” Blanche said. The prosecution had no problem with a July sentencing. Merchan said the first criminal sentencing of an ex-President in American history would take place on July 11th, at 10 A.M. Trump stood up, saying nothing, and led his lawyers and his supporters down the courtroom’s center aisle. He pushed open the rear door, and let himself out. It was just after quarter past five.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Trump found his voice again. “I’m a very innocent man,” he said, calling the verdict a “disgrace.” America, he said, has “gone to hell.” “We’re a nation in decline, serious decline,” he went on. “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.” Criminals taking over the country? Sounds bad. ♦

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