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WBFO brings you NPR's live coverage of the Republican National Convention tonight from 9pm-11pm.

How Trump's criminal conviction might alter his campaign for the presidency

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I'm a very innocent man.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALVIN BRAGG: The only voice that matters is the voice of the jury.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Former President Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg after the 34 guilty verdicts in Trump's New York criminal trial. Sentencing is set for July 11, which is just days from the Republican National Convention, which underlines the way that this trial inevitably is intertwined with politics. Many Republican political leaders have been showing their support for Trump. House Speaker Mike Johnson called the verdict a shameful day, although Maryland Senate candidate Larry Hogan said that we should respect the justice system. All of this means a lot of work for NPR's Scott Detrow because, among other things, he's the host of NPR's Trump's Trials podcast. And we talked this morning of what the verdict means for the country when you step out of the courtroom.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: It's really a key moment, right? A man convicted on felony charges is running for president, and he's doing so making the argument that our entire judicial system is a fraud and out to get him. So voters now have this incredibly stark choice about whether or not to return him to the White House. And there's certainly other factors in the race. Joe Biden has a four-year record at this point. But I think that decision is going to say a lot about the direction of American democracy.

One thing I was thinking about last night is I saw a lot of people in this moment of a president being found guilty by a jury of 12 Americans saying - you know, citing that famous Gerald Ford speech about this is a government of laws, not men. I don't know if this is the full story, because now we have this remarkable situation of a verdict is in, and Americans will decide, does this person take power again? Does this person, a convicted felon, go back to the Oval Office?

INSKEEP: This is something that effectively both campaigns said yesterday. Trump...

DETROW: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...Said in his statement, I now appeal to the people on November 5. The Biden campaign issued a statement saying, OK, here's this verdict, but only the American people can, in their view, keep Trump out of office. They're both basically saying the same thing. It is a democracy. The people will decide.

DETROW: That's right. And how the people decide will affect the other criminal cases that Trump is facing. Remember, this is the one that's going to trial, but he is facing two different federal cases, one involving his attempts to overturn the election. If he becomes president, he can pardon himself on those charges, or he can derail the investigations and the criminal cases. He would have that power. This is a New York state conviction, so he would not have the power to pardon himself, but a lot is at stake here about what direction the country's going to go when it comes to how the rule of law works and when it comes to the rule of law combined with politics.

INSKEEP: Could this conviction help the former president in the election right now?

DETROW: I mean, Donald Trump clearly thinks so. I'm not sure what other choice he has politically. But he said himself as much in an interview with KDKA in Pittsburgh earlier this month.

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TRUMP: Even if convicted, I think that it has absolutely no impact. It may drive the numbers up. But we don't want that. We want to have a fair verdict.

DETROW: You mentioned the speaker of the House, other key Republicans rallying around Trump. His supporters seem energized. There were a lot of signs that he got a lot of donations last night. But look. The primaries are over. I think it's important to think about the fact that not only are more moderate voters going to decide this election. It's probably going to come down to the voters who don't like Joe Biden and don't like Donald Trump and feel not sure which direction to go. Our really well-timed recent poll showed that only 17% of voters said a guilty verdict could make them change their mind on whether or not to vote for Trump. But 17% is a lot, given how close the last few elections have been.

INSKEEP: Ah. So this could be decisive even if the overwhelming majority of voters already had made up their minds and aren't going to change them?

DETROW: The way I think about that is the attendance of a Big Ten football stadium in these key states has decided the last two presidential elections, and that's probably going to be the case in this one.

INSKEEP: Although some of those stadiums are pretty big.

DETROW: They are.

INSKEEP: I get it, I get it. Scott, thanks so much.

DETROW: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.