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After Trump's guilty verdict, the former president has a few options ahead of him


Back in March on this program, we heard from Hugh Hewitt. He's a talk show host on the Salem Radio Network and also a lawyer and someone who interviews former President Trump from time to time. When he was on this program a couple of months ago, he made two predictions. Let's listen.


HUGH HEWITT: And I think Alvin Bragg - I'm sort of an outlier here, Steve...

INSKEEP: About 10 seconds.

HEWITT: ...I think the Alvin Bragg prosecution will convict the president, and I think it will help the former president.

INSKEEP: OK, two predictions. Hugh Hewitt is back. Hugh, you were right about the conviction, and now we find out about the other part. How could this possibly help the former president?

HEWITT: Well, good morning, Steve. The immediate aftermath is a torrent of contributions to Donald Trump, and I mean an enormous outpouring of money overnight that will continue through the weekend as people express their outrage and their disgust by a direct contribution to Donald Trump. I also think you'll see the Senate candidates he needs to get the majority back in the Senate in November, like Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania, and Bernie Moreno in Ohio, Larry Hogan in Maryland. There are a lot of them. I think they will all benefit politically. I also believe there are people who - in the middle of this country who are going to be disgusted at the weaponization of the criminal law and rebuke Democrats generally for participating in it, and if not participation, cheering it on.

INSKEEP: You know, can I just ask about something there? You mentioned Larry Hogan in Maryland. That's a very interesting case. You're talking about Republican Senate candidates as Republicans try to take over the Senate. Many, many Republicans are now trashing this verdict. They are criticizing the justice system in this case, or even more broadly. Larry Hogan took a different approach in Maryland. He's a more moderate Republican in a more moderate state. He told voters to respect the verdict. And immediately, a top Trump adviser said his Senate campaign is over. Why would that be?

HEWITT: Well, I don't know who the advisor was. And I think that's wrong because Larry...

INSKEEP: Chris LaCivita.

HEWITT: Yeah. OK. I don't know what Chris is thinking about. I do believe Larry Hogan will win in Maryland, and I think moderate Republicans like Hogan and Susan Collins, who expressed her outrage online - I think they will rally to the president over time. But Larry Hogan has always run as a very, very centrist guy. So maybe he won't get as much money as, say, Bernie Moreno in Ohio or Tim Sheehy in Montana. But the practical political consequences are a huge boost in activism, energy and money for Republicans up and down the ballot, but especially the former president.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about how this affects voters then. We just this week, right before the verdict, had an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. It had one finding that I think won't surprise you that most voters, the vast majority of voters said, this verdict is not going to affect me or my vote. They've already decided, or they're thinking about other things like the economy. So for most people, this verdict is not an electoral issue or a decisive electoral issue, but for a minority of people, it was important. And in a close election, couldn't this verdict make a difference?

HEWITT: It could. I think it could win a couple of states for Donald Trump that would otherwise hesitate. I'm thinking especially about Pennsylvania.

INSKEEP: Don't you think he will also lose some voters, though? Some people who say, I really don't - that's really kind of awkward for the country to have a convicted felon in the Oval Office.

HEWITT: I don't think it is awkward for the country if people believe it's an unjust verdict, and I believe they will. And they - if they didn't before the tidal wave of news about the judge, about the grounds for reversal, they will after a weekend of it. I do think it will fade. But then Judge Merchan is going to sentence him five days before the convention. That's going to be wild. And then the appeal. There's a chance that it will be reversed before the election, but I believe the expectation of reversal will be pretty universal among serious people - of students of the law. And that therefore, the political emphasis of this will be all of the good of the president. He'd rather not go through this gauntlet. I'm sure - no one likes to. But I...


HEWITT: ...Do believe politically it will help him.

INSKEEP: Well, let's just talk about the grounds for appeal. You've listed a bunch of things. We don't have time for all of them. But can you pick one? If you had to pick one thing that you think the former president could make an argument about, what is it?

HEWITT: He will certainly point to the failure to specify the second crime, what the Wall Street Journal this morning is calling the turducken approach, tucking in a bunch of crimes into the 34 felonies, none of that specify the felony that resurrected the misdemeanor. I think that's his best shot. The judge, of course, is conflicted as well.

INSKEEP: And, of course, there's an argument about the judge, and there are different things we could go into there. But when you talk about the second crime, we're saying that this was a misdemeanor that he was found guilty of. It's elevated to a felony because it was in connection with another crime, and the jury was allowed to look at different possible second crimes. That's the objection you think could win this for him?

HEWITT: Not only that, but the fact it was never specified because of your constitutional right to know what the charges are against you - one that dates back to the revulsion at the Star Chamber, and that's what's happened.

INSKEEP: Oh, I just want to stop. I know it wasn't specified in the first charging document, but I'm told here by our reporter it was specified in later filings, wasn't it?

HEWITT: No, it was not. Even the closing argument gave them a menu of options to pick a second crime from it. As Professor Turley pointed out last night, the verdict came down. It didn't even specify the second crime. They were not obliged to get unanimity on a second crime and articulate it. I really don't know how it stands upstate.

INSKEEP: Hugh Hewitt, it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

HEWITT: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Take care. 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.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.