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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Trump trial affirms the rule of law

    A jury of 12 citizens has convicted Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, on all 34 felony counts in his hush-money trial in a New York state courtroom.

    Thursday, May 30, 2024 has already gone down in history as the first time a former American president has been convicted of crimes. But even more significant for the rule of law under our Constitution is the fact that a former president is not immune, that he was charged and put on trial before a jury of his peers.

    The New York state trial of Donald Trump, one of several state and federal cases pending trial, ends the notion that any American, even one who has held the highest office in the land, is above the law. He could be, and was, tried with the same rights as all others. Until Thursday, he was presumed innocent. The burden of proof was on the state; the jury determined the prosecution made its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Americans should not take the verdict as reason either for outrage or for satisfaction. It is a sad and regrettable thing that a man who led our country and is seeking to do so again has been stained with a stain that will not go away, either in life or in the history books.

    But this is a moment for all Americans, including anyone angered by the verdict, to recognize what it says about us: that our collective right to a fair election is the law of the land, and any violation of that right breaks the law.

    It says that a person who attempts to undermine that right is a lawbreaker, and if proven guilty, is subject to the penalties of the law.

    All should be relieved by the reminder that we the people have such a right and that not even a former president can violate it with impunity.

    Donald Trump had reason to fear the opinions of voters. If he had not conspired with others shortly before the 2016 election to suppress information about behavior many Americans were likely to object to, he might never have become president. That is what he feared, as the testimony at his trial made clear.

    Yes, there is disgrace, as the newly convicted former president told journalists outside the court. But not in the way he means.

    It is a disgrace to be the first American president tried and convicted for criminal and clumsy attempts so egregious that he knew they had to be hidden from the voting public; acts so obviously illegal that not to prosecute them would have been to encourage other hyper-ambitious candidates to imitate them.

    Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the jurors and to Judge Juan Merchan for his evenhanded and dignified management of the case, both inside the courtroom and with regard to the defendant’s social media attacks on him, his family, court employees and jury members. It is not too much to say their actions upheld and strengthened our Constitution.

    Even on Thursday, having been fined for contempt and now facing sentencing, the former president could not curb his comments. He claimed the trial was rigged and the judge was corrupt, and tried to tie the proceedings of a New York state trial to his expected opponent, President Biden, in the November election.

    Sentencing in July could but will not necessarily include a prison sentence. It will come right before the Republican National Convention. And there will undoubtedly be appeals.

    But it is not accurate, as the former president declared, that the “real verdict will come later.” It came today. Donald Trump is a convicted felon. Donald Trump is not above the law.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.