Trump verdict hardens many views, but changes some, too

NEW YORK – As the United States’ electorate processed the felony convictions of Donald Trump, the partisan divide in the verdict’s wake did not look so much like opposing sides of a chasm but like two alternate universes, one where the former president had been hounded and persecuted by his corrupt political enemies, the other where justice had finally been served to a career criminal.

Where the two sides were even within shouting distance of each other was vanishingly small, if it existed at all.

But a few voices in the Trump universe allowed that Trump may well have done something wrong, and a few in the anti-Trump sphere said they had finally been convinced to vote for his opponent, President Joe Biden.

Dozens of interviews with voters in the swing states of Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well as Iowa, found not a single supporter of Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, who had been pulled from his side by his conviction on 34 felony counts of fabricating business records to hide hush-money payments to a porn actor on the eve of the 2016 election.

Prosecutors had framed their case in the loftiest of terms, election interference – an all-out effort to thwart the exposure of a sex scandal that may well have changed the course of history.

That was not how Trump’s supporters saw it.

“I think that this was all a set-up and rigged just like the election,” said Mr Marty Lee, 77, of Scottsdale, Arizona, who was wearing a T-shirt that read “We the People Are Pissed Off.”

The trial was “a kangaroo court”, he added.

False claims that the 2020 election was rigged, pushed by Trump and his allies, have been repeatedly debunked, and there is no basis for the suggestion that the Manhattan case or the verdict rendered unanimously by a jury of 12 was rigged.

Even Democrats were sceptical that the convictions would make a difference.

“I’m cynical,” said Ms Paula Doty, a 53-year-old teacher from Powers Lake, Wisconsin, who applauded the verdict, “because I don’t think it’s going to matter”.

But on the margins, with the remaining undecided voters, having a felon as the Republican Party’s standard-bearer could make the decision to pick Trump harder – maybe a lot harder.

Mr Oscar Cisneros, 50, who described himself as an independent voter, said that while he supported Mr Biden in 2020, he had been put off more recently by the president’s age and apparent slip-ups, and that he was undecided about whom to vote for in the fall. But now, he said, Trump had added to his baggage.

“It gives you a different point of view: How can you be a president if you’re being found guilty of hush money?” asked Mr Cisneros, who works for the city of Phoenix. “OK, dude, you’re guilty. I don’t know if I want you up there.”

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