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Trump verdict sets tone for upcoming political events

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

A historic conviction - former President Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in order to hide hush money payments made in the closing days of the 2016 presidential election. Never before has a former or sitting president been convicted of a felony. And Trump is still very much running for president. Here to discuss how this verdict may impact the election is NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

DETROW: Trump came out and denounced the verdict. His supporters have as well. What other political reaction have you been seeing?

MONTANARO: Well, it's been fairly predictable so far. I mean, Republicans have rallied around him. That includes everyone from House Speaker Mike Johnson, who called today a shameful day in American history, to the cadre of Republicans really publicly engaging in what amount to unofficial tryouts to be Trump's vice presidential running mate. Democrats, on the other hand, are applauding the justice system. The Biden campaign, notably, came out with a statement, though, saying that the, quote, "verdict does not change the fact that," in their words, quote, "there is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office - at the ballot box." And that's something that apparently Donald Trump and Joe Biden's campaign agree on. Clearly peeved and irritated, Donald Trump was outside the courtroom after the verdict and said, quote, "the real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people."

DETROW: I've been asking you this hypothetically for months and months. Now I can ask you. It's a fact. We know what the verdict is. What impact do you think this guilty verdict could have on voters?

MONTANARO: I feel like what impact could this have on voters is something I've been answering for years without being able to answer it.

(LAUGHTER)

DETROW: I guess you still can't.

MONTANARO: And this is no different. I was just going to say, you know, there are a lot of questions here. You know, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist polling out this week found that only a small percentage of voters would likely be moved by a verdict either way. But a lot of people have stayed tuned out of politics. And this trial, you know, really, they've also been not really fully engaged with. So this could be a reset moment, given the gravity of the fact that Trump is now officially the first former president to be a convicted felon.

So will the conviction resonate with persuadable voters in key states? Does this do anything to rally support to Biden's side with voters he's been struggling with? And especially important in a year that's expected to be lower turnout than four years ago, will this rally or potentially suppress turnout among Trump's potential voters, rank-and file-voters, especially white voters without college degrees who are traditionally among the least likely to vote? We've seen that play out in election after election. Republicans would say, absolutely not, that this is only going to galvanize the base as it did during the primary, but we're going to see.

DETROW: What are you watching for next?

MONTANARO: Well, really, I'm curious about what President Biden himself is able to do. You know, he's been very cautious about Trump's legal woes, despite it dominating coverage. I mean, really, he hasn't wanted to show any impropriety and has not wanted to show even the slightest hint of trying to influence the Justice Department and state prosecutors in their cases. But it's hard for me to believe that he's not going to say something about this, especially now that the campaign has weighed in. I mean, the White House Counsel's office essentially said no comment. But Biden is both president and campaigner at the same time. Right now, he's behind in that campaign, and he needs to be able to capitalize on something like this.

Also, some big moments coming up.June 27 is the first debate. This is definitely going to come up. How does Biden do? How does Trump defend himself? A couple of weeks later, on July 11, Trump's scheduled to be sentenced. Days after that at the Republican National Convention, Trump is going to be officially nominated to be the GOP nominee. And in case anybody thinks it's possible he won't be nominated, he's going to be nominated. Trump has more control over the Republican Party than ever.

DETROW: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro, Domenico. Thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. 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.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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