Hey, Trump defenders: Knock it off!

US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (center) and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (third left) listen as former U.S. President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he arrives for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to an extramarital affair with Stormy Daniels, at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024, in New York City. (Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

The reaction among Republicans to the news that Donald Trump was convicted in New York of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records was fast and furious.

House Speaker Mike Johnson declared it a “shameful day in American history.” Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance called the jury’s verdict a “disgrace to the judicial system.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky assured the world that the charges “should have never happened.”


Without having sat through the five-week trial, these and other modern-day representatives of the party of law and order have determined that the charges against Trump were illegitimate and the outcome was, as he put it, “rigged.” Rep. James Comer, also of Kentucky, explained that the verdict is “another example of Democrats being relentless in their pursuit to weaponize the courts, abuse America’s judicial system, and target President Joe Biden’s political opposition.”

That Republicans have stooped so low in their groveling fidelity to Trump’s delusions should surprise no one, given all that has come before. Nonetheless, this attack on this particular court cries out for special opprobrium, given the paucity of evidence on which it rests — such things as how the judge, Juan Manuel Merchan, once gave Biden a $15 contribution.

Trump’s lawyers were able to cross-examine witnesses and call a witness of their own. By all accounts, they raised ample reason to doubt the veracity of a key prosecution witness, Michael Cohen, and they did their level best to suggest that, because she has worked as a porn actress, Stormy Daniels had no right to be upset about a creepy guy twice her age asking her for sex.

In the end, the case did not hinge on the testimony of any single witness but on the considerable amount of evidence that backed up these witnesses. Even the testimony of Trump loyalist Hope Hicks bolstered the prosecution’s case. Still, Trump’s defenders are discarding even the possibility that the jury got it right and that he was convicted because he’s guilty. That’s reckless, and it’s dangerous.

It’s time for Trump defenders to knock it off.

You have no right to declare fraud with no evidence. You have no right to declare the process illegitimate simply because you don’t like the result. It is clear that no such shrieks would be emanating from Trump and his minions had the trial ended in his exoneration or even in a hung jury.

When a lone Republican, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (who is a current U.S. Senate candidate) urged Americans to “respect” the verdict and “not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship,” he was immediately pelted by Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law. Lara Trump said Hogan “doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point, and quite frankly, anybody in America.” This is low, even for her.

Knock it off.

Trump is entitled to all the appeals he can get his followers to pay for. He can rail against the verdict all he wants. But, unless or until Trump’s conviction is overturned, the presumption must be that the verdict is legitimate and that it was arrived at by 12 ordinary citizens acting in good faith.

Perhaps Trump will prevail in the end. Maybe the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court will make the charges that he’s been convicted of in New York go away. They’ve already helped him by delaying one of his three other pending prosecutions while they ponder whether he has the right to assassinate his political opponents.

But any such change of fortune will happen because of process, not pronouncement. Making wild accusations about how Biden is somehow behind all of Trump’s legal woes (if he were really so powerful and corrupt, why would he let a Trump-appointed prosecutor drag his son Hunter into court?) denigrates our justice system and puts people’s lives at risk.

Knock it off.


Bill Lueders, the former editor and now editor-at-large of The Progressive, is a writer in Madison, Wisconsin. This column was produced for Progressive Perspectives, a project of The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.