ESTRICH: Why it should matter

The judge was scrupulously fair, keeping out evidence of the E. Jean Carroll and civil fraud cases that might have aided the prosecution at Trump's expense

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan criminal court May 13. (Sarah Yenesel / AP Photo)

The question everyone is asking in the wake of Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts is whether it will matter in the fall election.

It should. Trump essentially offered no defense of his activities in the trial. His lawyers nitpicked, especially Michael Cohen, but the deny-everything-and-attack-everyone approach — which is so characteristic of Trumpism — was a singularly ineffective strategy in court.

He has only gotten worse since the verdict was handed down, turning his ire on the criminal justice system, claiming the trial was rigged, the judge is the devil, the Biden administration was behind it all and immigrants — criminals and mental patients — are somehow responsible. In his Friday “news conference,” which was actually a 33-minute rant so loaded with lies and misstatements that the networks that were carrying it (except Fox News) chose to cut away for fact checks, he took no responsibility for doing anything wrong and expressed no contrition for his disgrace.

The diatribe might play well with his hardcore base, but how does it play to the sliver of voters in the middle who will decide this election?

The trial was not “rigged.” The judge was scrupulously fair, keeping out evidence of the E. Jean Carroll and civil fraud cases that might have aided the prosecution at Trump’s expense. The jurors were selected from the hundreds who were called after an arduous process, in which Trump’s lawyers actively participated, to weed out those who had any doubts about their ability to judge fairly, based on the evidence. Trump, a born and bred New Yorker who committed these crimes while living in New York, has no cause to complain that these were not his “peers.” The Biden administration had absolutely nothing to do with it; Alvin Bragg, the district attorney who brought the case, was elected by the voters of New York County, not appointed by or in any way answerable to President Joe Biden.

The closest Trump has come to contrition is to claim, as he did again on Friday, that everyone falsifies business records, that what he did was something that is widely done. “I could go through the books of any business person in the city, and I could find things that in theory, I guess, ‘Let’s indict him, let’s destroy his life,'” he said.

Not so. Every business person in the city does not pay hush money to cover up their sexual wrongdoing and then disguise it as legal expenses. And what made this a felony was the reason he did it: to interfere with the 2016 election to his advantage. That is the core of the conviction and why it should matter. He was interfering with the democratic election. As a presidential candidate, he is bound to respect the democratic process, not manipulate it to his advantage.

Trump has claimed that he is standing up for the Constitution. The jury found otherwise, based on rock-solid evidence that the records were falsified, that Trump knew and intended that, and that he did so because he feared that if voters found out about his affair with Stormy Daniels, they would hold it against him and he might lose the election on that account.

Trump was violating the letter and the spirit of the Constitution by his criminal efforts to manipulate the democratic process. That is what this conviction has in common with the other indictments he faces. They all reflect his contempt for democracy and his firm belief that he is above the law.

The conviction will stand; just as he had no defense, he has no grounds for a reversal. His defenders, starting with the speaker of the House, now argue that the Supreme Court should intervene to void his conviction on the grounds that he should be, not even as president but as a candidate who attempted to interfere with the election, immune from prosecution.

Nonsense. No one is above the law. It is only appropriate that he be held to a high standard. That is what Alvin Bragg did in prosecuting him. Voters should do the same.