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The verdict is in

The Manhattan show trial ends with former President Trump convicted—but now the real trial begins

Former President Donald Trump prepares to speak to reporters after hearing the verdict at his trial in New York. Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig, Pool

The verdict is in

The verdict is in. Just hours ago, a Manhattan jury found former President Donald J. Trump guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records. The jury deliberated only a matter of hours before making their judgment known to the court. Within seconds the news was spreading around the world. A former president of the United States is now a convicted felon. It will take some time for that fact to settle on the nation’s conscience, and the political ramifications are yet unknown. But before turning to the many implications of this verdict, we need to let the moral seriousness of the tragedy settle on us. Whatever happens in days to come, this verdict represents a major turning point in American history.

As difficult as we find this moment, Americans need to think carefully about what all of this means. We all know that Americans face a dangerous political moment, with constitutional dangers and legal complexities tossed about as weapons of political warfare. It seems just about impossible that we are overestimating the importance of this moment.

I have to put my cards on the table. I think Alvin Bragg’s prosecution of Donald Trump, coming as a result of a campaign pledge he made when he ran for Manhattan district attorney, was a political stunt from the beginning. Bragg had to construct an argument without legal precedent to press felony charges against Trump, and it is hard to see Bragg’s office taking a similar approach to any other defendant. To make the point bluntly—it has never happened before. Furthermore, the entire process played out almost as if it were a staged political show trial. And does anyone believe that a Manhattan jury is representative of the U.S. population? Major media described the New York proceedings as “Trump’s hush money trial,” even though the paying of hush money is not illegal. The seven-week trial was nakedly political, and the judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, made so many questionable rulings that a good number of observers on the liberal side acknowledge that Trump has strong grounds for an appeal.

But, of course, that appeal will come long after the 2024 presidential election.

The bigger scandal is that the forces allied against the former president were so blatantly political and the entire process was timed to inflict maximum political damage just as the 2024 presidential campaign was hitting high gear. Trump seethed as he was tied up in court, even as President Joe Biden was able to hit the campaign trail. The raw political agenda at work was seen as the Biden-Harris campaign dispatched actor Robert De Niro to hold an official campaign event outside the courtroom, timed for when the case went to the jury. Legal authorities friendly to the Democrats, and particularly friendly to Biden, could have acted earlier but didn’t. Their political calculation and manipulation are easy to see, and the former president will not have a hard time convincing untold millions of Americans that the whole trial was a sham—which it was.

Christians trying to think Biblically about politics will be tempted to try to find a way out of the melee. There is no way out.

At the same time, Christians trying to think and act within a Biblical frame find the entire picture just sickening. We have a former president, just about ready to pick up his third Republican nomination for president, whose major defense was that paying hush money to a porn actress isn’t illegal. Technically, it’s not illegal, but it’s hard to imagine that many evangelical Christians can look to Donald Trump without shaking their heads and wanting the whole sordid picture to just fade away. Whether or not Trump ever knew Stormy Daniels, he did arrange to pay her off. There is very little there that could surprise most of us when it comes to Donald Trump and scandal. The moral weight of it all is massive. And yet, President Biden is a half-lucid geriatric who is now little more than a tool of the radical left. To vote for Biden is to authorize continued incompetence and moral liberalism, now set to push a set of progressivist ideological goals over the finish line.

Say what you will about Donald Trump and his sex scandals, he doesn’t confuse male and female. Furthermore, the events connected to this trial will only serve to fire up Trump’s base and give him even more moral credibility when tells the American people, “I told you so. It’s me today and they’re coming for you tomorrow.” The biggest effect of this verdict, reached so suspiciously fast, is likely to be that Biden’s team feels self-satisfied and Trump’s team is fired up. My guess is that far more Americans will be fired up than satisfied by this verdict and New York’s misuse of the law.

Christians trying to think Biblically about politics will be tempted to try to find a way out of the melee. There is no way out. Barring something unforeseen, either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be elected in November. The basic issues have not changed, nor have the candidates. In that sense, we are just where we stood at the beginning of the week. “Nov. 5 will be our liberation day,” Trump defiantly declared. Today was a dark day in American history, but all eyes are now focused on that date 159 days ahead of us. For America, the real trial is just beginning.

This column was originally published on May 30.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also the host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.

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