'Trump will never be 47': Pritzker sounds off after hush money guilty verdict

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker did not mince words after former President Donald Trump was found guilty Thursday on all counts in his hush money trial.

Pritzker released a statement, which began with, "Justice has been served."

The statement went on to say the following:

"After facing a jury of his peers, Donald Trump is exposed as the liar and fraud that he is. Trump evaded the law to deceive voters and today, the law caught up with him. Donald Trump is a racist, a homophobe, a grifter, and a threat to this country. He can now add one more title to his list - a felon. But let me be clear, Donald Trump will never be 47."

Former President Trump sat stone-faced in court as a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying business records in an attempt to bury stories about extramarital affairs that arose during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Judge Juan Merchan, who oversaw the case, has set Trump's sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Jurors over the course of a month heard testimony about sex and bookkeeping, tabloid journalism and presidential politics.

Their task was to decide whether prosecutors, who charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records, proved that he not only falsified those records, but that he did so with intent to commit or conceal another crime.

After deliberating for 9.5 hours, they rejected the former president’s claims that the bookkeeping was legitimate and accurate.

Trump is expected to quickly appeal the verdict and will face an awkward dynamic as he seeks to return to the campaign trail as a convicted felon.

How will this impact the election?

Two-thirds of registered voters nationwide questioned in a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll released on Thursday – after deliberations began but before the verdict – said a guilty verdict in the trial would make no difference to their vote in the presidential election. 

As he seeks a return to the White House in this year’s election, the judgment presents voters with another test of their willingness to accept Trump’s boundary-breaking behavior.

Seventeen percent said a conviction of Trump would make them less likely to vote for him and 15% said they'd be more inclined to support the former president at the ballot box.

Trump faces three other felony indictments, but the New York case may be the only one to reach a conclusion before the November election, adding to the significance of the outcome. Though the legal and historical implications of the verdict are readily apparent, the political consequences are less so given its potential to reinforce rather than reshape already-hardened opinions about Trump.

What was Trump charged with?

Trump was charged in New York City with 34 counts of falsifying business records, each a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

The case centered on allegations that Trump falsified internal records kept by his company to hide the true nature of payments made to his then-personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.

Cohen allegedly helped cover up Trump’s extramarital affairs with porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal by paying both of the women off. 

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer to pay McDougal $150,000 in a journalistically dubious practice known as "catch-and-kill."

Trump's company, the Trump Organization, then reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments, all which prosecutors say were falsely logged as legal expenses in company records. Over several months, Cohen said the company paid him $420,000.

What did Stormy Daniels say? 

Daniels was on the stand for 7½ hours over two days. During questioning from prosecutors, she relayed in graphic detail what she said happened during her encounter with Trump, after the two met at a celebrity golf outing at Lake Tahoe in 2006 where sponsors included the adult film studio where she worked.

After accepting a dinner invitation from Trump, the pair convened in his penthouse and after using the restroom, she returned to find Trump sitting on the hotel bed in his underwear.

"I came out of the bathroom and saw an older man in his underwear that I wasn’t expecting to see there," she said.

She didn’t feel physically or verbally threatened but realized that he was "bigger and blocking the way," she testified.

"The next thing I know was: I was on the bed," and they were having sex, Daniels recalled. The encounter was brief but left her "shaking," she said. "I just wanted to leave," she testified. She also detailed that Trump did not use a condom. 

She described being offered $130,000 by Cohen, to remain silent after she said she was looking for ways to sell the story and get it out there in 2016.

What did Michael Cohen say? 

Cohen, the prosecution's star witness, spent days on the stand recounting what he said was Trump's role in authorizing the hush money payments to multiple parties. 

During his testimony, Cohen described Trump as anxious that stories alleging extramarital sex could harm his 2016 presidential campaign standing with female voters. Cohen said the then-candidate had directed him to suppress the stories, quoting him as saying exhortations including, "Just do it" and "We need to stop this from getting out."

When pushed by defense attorney Todd Blanche and despite admitting to previously lying to protect Trump, Cohen stood by his recollection of conversations with the former president about the hush money payment to Daniels, which was the center of the case.

"No doubt in your mind?" Blanche asked about whether Cohen specifically recalled having conversations with Trump about the Daniels matter. No doubt, Cohen said.

Other witnesses

Tabloid publisher David Pecker testified about agreeing to be the "eyes and ears" of Trump’s campaign by tipping Cohen off to negative stories, including Daniels’ claim.

Lawyer Keith Davidson talked about negotiating the deals and what he said was Cohen’s frustration after the Daniels deal that Trump still hadn’t repaid him.

The defense’s big witness was attorney Robert Costello, who testified late in the trial about negotiating to represent Cohen after the FBI raided Cohen’s properties in 2018.

The former president did not take the stand in his own defense.

Trump’s gag order

Judge Juan Merchan issued a gag order on March 26 after prosecutors raised concerns about Trump’s inclinations to attack people involved in his cases. Merchan expanded the order on April 1 after Trump lashed out on social media at the judge’s daughter, a Democratic political consultant, and made false claims about her. 

Trump was held in contempt of court and fined a total of $10,000 for violating the gag order 10 times over the course of the trial. The judge told Trump that future gag order violations could send him to jail.

Among the violations were Trump’s several attacks on Cohen, including an April 13 social media post asking, "Has disgraced attorney and felon Michael Cohen been prosecuted for LYING? Only TRUMP people get prosecuted by this Judge and these thugs!"

Merchan also flagged reposts Trump made of a New York Post article that described Cohen as a "serial perjurer," and a Trump post quoting Fox News host Jesse Watters’ claim that liberal activists were lying to infiltrate the jury.

Merchan's jail warning came after he ruled Trump had violated the gag order a final time when, in an April 22 interview with television channel Real America’s Voice, he criticized the speed at which the jury was picked and claimed, without evidence, that it was stacked with Democrats.

Trump attempted to have the gag order lifted but was denied by a mid-level appellate court. 

What do voters think?

FOX News reported that an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll released on Thursday – after deliberations had gotten underway – found two-thirds of registered voters nationwide said a guilty verdict in the trial would make no difference to their vote in the presidential election. 

Seventeen percent said a conviction of Trump would make them less likely to vote for him and 15% said they'd be more inclined to support the former president at the ballot box.

If Trump is acquitted, three-quarters of those surveyed said it wouldn't impact their vote. Fourteen percent said a not guilty verdict would make them more likely to back Trump, and 9% said they'd be less likely to vote for the former president.