The Trump New York Verdict: Constitutional, Legal, and Prudential Questions

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A New York City jury recently convicted former President Donald Trump of 34 criminal counts of falsifying business documents. In New York, it is a misdemeanor to falsify business records with “the intent to defraud,” a crime with a two year statute of limitations. If the falsification is carried out for the purpose of concealing another crime, it is a felony, with an extended statute of limitations.

Following the verdict, Bragg pointed to the prosecution’s methodical presentation of “extensive hard evidence” in support of the outcome. Some legal experts agree. Others, however, have criticized the DA’s case and predict it will be overturned on appeal for any of several reasons. These include questions about Judge Merchan's impartiality, the prosecution’s legal theory, the evidence allowed and not allowed at trial, and the jury instructions. One much-discussed question, for example, is that Manhattan District Attorney Bragg’s case charged Trump with a felony records violation, but he did not specify until his closing argument what other crime(s) the records violations were designed to conceal. Moreover Judge Merchan's jury instructions told the jury that they need not agree on that question, but instead that they only had to agree that the violations were designed to conceal a crime. Was this correct as a matter of statutory and constitutional law? In addition, there are questions about whether some of the conduct alleged actually constituted a crime, for either statutory or constitutional reasons. There are also important questions about the propriety and prudence of bringing charges of this type against a former President of the opposite party from that of the other actors in the system. Finally, there are many important questions about what happens next.

Join us for an expert discussion of this historic case and its wide-ranging legal and prudential implications.


  • Sarah Isgur, Senior Editor, The Dispatch
  • Prof. William G. Otis, Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law


As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.