After Trump guilty verdict, US divisions deepen as Russia extends sympathy

While Democrats rejoice and Republicans agonise, international reactions on the historic guilty verdict pour in.

Former US President Donald Trump has been found guilty of falsifying business records to cover up a hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, making him the first convicted ex-US leader.

News of Thursday’s verdict reverberated in the corridors of power in Washington, DC, political trenches across the United States, and capitals around the world.

The drama is playing out five months before the pivotal November presidential elections, which Trump hopes to win.

Here are some reactions to the verdict:

‘No one is above the law’

  • In a statement posted on X, US President Joe Biden wrote: “There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box.”
  • Speaking at a public event, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated in 2016, joked, “Anything going on today?”
  • Charles Schumer, the Democratic leader of the US Senate, said the verdict “speaks for itself”, stressing, “No one is above the law.”
  • Adam Schiff, a California congressman and one of the impeachment prosecutors of Trump, said that while justice prevailed, the verdict “will only increase Donald Trump’s attempts to discredit the justice system and tear down our democracy … it is up to us to make sure it continues to prevail.”

‘A defeat for Americans’

Meanwhile, Trump’s Republican Party mates reacted with fury; they questioned the legitimacy of the trial and how it was conducted.

  • US House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican ally of Trump, said it was a “shameful day in American history” and the charges were “purely political”.
  • Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, the No 2 House Republican, said that the decision was “a defeat for Americans who believe in the critical legal tenet that justice is blind”.
  • Ohio Senator JD Vance, whom Trump backed during the last campaign, condemned the decision as a “disgrace to the judicial system”.
  • South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s most frequent allies, said, “This verdict says more about the system than the allegations.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has long had a tense relationship with Trump but recently endorsed his 2024 campaign, refrained from attacking the judge or jury. But he said the charges “never should have been brought in the first place”, adding that he expects the conviction “to be overturned on appeal”.
  • Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan took different approach, calling on the public ahead of the verdict to “respect the verdict and the legal process”. Hogan, who is running for Senate in a Democrat-leaning state said, “At this dangerously divided moment in our history, all leaders – regardless of party – must not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship.”
  • Adam Kinzinger, a former Republican congressman and one of the few Republican critics of Trump, said that “justice was done”. He added, “The GOP (Republicans) is about to have a frontrunner, or a nominee, who cannot vote for himself, who would be immediately discharged from the military in less than honourable conditions, who cannot own a firearm.”

‘Important day for accountability’

  • As Trump’s trial ended, his former close aide, Michael Cohen, one of the witnesses for the prosecution, told The Daily Beast that Thursday’s verdict “is an important day for accountability and the rule of law”. He added. “While it has been a difficult journey for me and my family, the truth always matters.”
  • Ronan Farrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who investigated the “catch and kill” scheme of covering up news reports critical of famous personalities, said the verdict reaffirms “how important the press is to our democracy”.
  • In an interview with CNN, Mary L Trump, a Trump critic and the niece of the former president, said that Trump “is probably doing his best not to think about anything” after the verdict. “But I think even he cannot deny, as much as he’d like to, that today he was convicted on 34 felony counts. That he is indeed a convicted felon.” She warned that the US should brace for another “alternate reality” that Trump would create to protect himself from an “unquestionably devastating loss”.

Outside the New York courtroom where Trump’s case was heard, supporters and critics also exchanged sharp and emotionally charged reactions.

  • Matthew Turner, a New York resident and Trump supporter said, “I think it’s going to make him more popular with the American people because they’re seeing how he’s being targeted and mistreated.” He said that Trump is being targeted “because he’s about to be president again”.
  • John McGuigan, another Trump supporter, said he was “outraged”, adding: “They convicted an innocent man today. Meanwhile, rapists and murderers are running around the streets of New York.”
  • Vivica Jimenez, who was among a group of anti-Trump protesters at the court, was “happy and relieved”. She said: “It’s been a long time waiting for this. It’s very emotional.”
  • Jamie Bauer, another anti-Trump protester, felt that “justice” was being served and said Trump is “being held accountable”.
A person holds a mask while impersonating Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump outside the Manhattan criminal court following the announcement of the verdict in Trump's criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in New York City, U.S. May 30, 2024. REUTERS/Cheney Orr
A person holds a mask of former US President Donald Trump outside the Manhattan criminal court following the announcement of the guilty verdict in Trump’s criminal trial [Cheney Orr/Reuters]

‘Solidarity’ from Italy, sympathy from Russia and Hungary

Beyond the US, international political leaders were beginning to react. The guilty verdict does not affect Trump’s bid to return to the Oval Office.

  • In a post on X, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister and head of the League Party, expressed his “solidarity and full support” for Trump, calling him “a victim of judicial harassment and a process of political nature”. He added: “I hope Trump wins; it would be a guarantee of greater balance and hope for world peace.”
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “The fact that a de facto elimination of political rivals by all possible legal and illegal means is going on there is obvious.”

  • “I’ve known President @realDonaldTrump to be a man of honour,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban posted on X. “As President, he always put America first, he commanded respect around the world and used this respect to build peace. Let the people make their verdict this November! Keep on fighting, Mr. President!”

  • Yoshimasa Hayashi, chief cabinet secretary of the Japanese government, refused to comment directly, but said Tokyo was “closely monitoring related developments”.
  • Mel Stride, the United Kingdom’s work and pensions secretary, told Sky News: “As a government cabinet minister, there is a long-held convention that we don’t interfere in elections overseas, so I really can’t comment on that particular question, in the same way we wouldn’t expect American politicians to start throwing comments in about our general election.” He added, “They are clearly dramatic, very dramatic turn of events and let’s wait to see what happens, but ultimately the choice will be for the American people … in November.”
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies