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What does a conviction on 34 felony counts mean for former President Trump?

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: We are looking now. It looks like we have some of the verdict coming in. It is...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Guilty. Count 23 - guilty. Count...

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After a trial that lasted 21 days and a deliberation that took less than 10 hours, a Manhattan jury found former President Donald Trump guilty on all 34 criminal felony counts of falsifying business records. The presumptive Republican nominee addressed the charges in the lobby of Trump Tower Friday morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: As far as the trial itself, it was very unfair.

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Unfair or not, the conviction triggers a series of events for the former president, some immediate, others longer term. This conviction is historic. Trump is now the first current or former president ever to be labeled a felon, but it puts him on a path that others convicted of similar crimes have faced before.

SHAPIRO: Like sentencing. Presiding Judge Juan Merchan is scheduled to sentence Trump at 10:00 a.m. on July 11. Before that happens, there is a pre-sentencing interview when a psychologist, social worker or probation officer interviews the former president. Then comes the pre-sentencing report with input from the defense and recommendations for sentencing.

SUMMERS: Judge Merchan could sentence Trump to probation or up to four years on each criminal count with a maximum sentence of 20 years.

SHAPIRO: One thing the conviction does not do is stop him from running for president. There is no constitutional prohibition against felons running for president or against serving a term in office while serving a term in prison.

SUMMERS: A more complicated question is whether Trump can vote for himself. He's a Florida resident, registered to vote there. And Florida requires felons to complete their full sentence, whether that's parole or imprisonment, before they can vote. No matter how things proceed, that is unlikely to happen in the next five months.

SHAPIRO: One other thing that could come next - an appeal. Attorney Andrew Weissmann is here with us to talk about that. He's the co-author of the book "The Trump Indictments." He was also a lead prosecutor in the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ANDREW WEISSMANN: Nice to be here.

SHAPIRO: Well, let's dive right into what's next for former President Trump. He addressed reporters this morning and said his legal team will appeal the verdict. What does the appeals process entail?

WEISSMANN: Sure. Well, you know, first, everyone needs to understand that as much as Donald Trump has denigrated the criminal justice system, he had a fair trial. He had a jury, a judge, eminent defense counsel. And at this point, he will have a sentencing happening on July 11, and at that point, he is entitled to appeal. He can't appeal now. He has to first get sentenced. And that takes - the sentencing is going to be quick. But the actual appeal process can take many, many months. For instance, in the civil fraud case, where he was unsuccessful, that was an expedited appeal, and that's not being heard until September. So that gives you some data point on which to see that the appeals process takes a while. But in part of that, he will have an opportunity to submit any and all errors that he thinks occurred in his trial, whether factual or legal.

SHAPIRO: Can you talk us through what some of the possible avenues of appeal might be? What are some of the issues that his team might raise?

WEISSMANN: He could raise an issue with respect to what's called the bump up. In other words, what made this a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. There were various theories that the state put forward and were submitted to the jury, obviously, with permission of the trial court that ruled in favor of the DA. But those could be raised on appeal to say that not all of them or any of them maybe were valid. For instance, one was a federal election crime. In other words, if he had - false business records with the intent to cover up or promote a federal election crime, that was one of the theories that the jury was allowed to decide on. This - another theory was a state election crime. A third theory was state tax crime. And so Donald Trump can say, you know, any or all of those are impermissible factors.

Other than that, I think that this was a very clean trial. The judge ruled in favor of Donald Thump on a number of issues. He also ruled in favor of the state on various issues. But I think in terms of the evidence and the way in which the trial occurred, I don't see a lot of appellate issues, but that's what the appellate courts are for is that a defense lawyer will make his or her best arguments. But as I said, I think the legal one may be the strongest.

SHAPIRO: And just in case people are confused about this, because the case is not in federal court, we're not talking about an appeals process that would ultimately lead up to the Supreme Court. This is an entirely different channel.

WEISSMANN: That is absolutely right. This is entirely within a separate sovereign, which is the state system in this case, New York state. So the Supreme Court of the United States should not be getting involved. And many people might wonder, gee, if the Supreme Court were to say there's immunity for a current or former president, that also should have no effect on this case because I think, by all accounts, everything that was charged here and is alleged and has now been found by the jury unanimously was all about conduct that is personal in nature that was not conduct that was undertaken by Donald Trump when he was president, in his capacity as president.

SHAPIRO: So the sentence could range from probation to four years per offense, up to 20 years maximum. What do you think the judge is likely to impose?

WEISSMANN: I don't know. But I do think that you will hear from the state that they will raise factors that go to things that judges consider, such as the risk of recidivism and the lack of remorse. And in that regard, it will be relevant that Donald Trump has violated a gag order 10 times and has been found to have done so, that he threatened witnesses, jurors, judges and family members of judges and prosecutors, his history with respect to having been found to have committed fraud civilly, his history with respect to the tax offense that this judge actually oversaw, which was a conviction of two Trump entities two years ago. All of that can be factored in. So I think all of those will be things that I suspect that we will hear from the state as to why it would be a condign sentence to have some form of jail imposed here.

SHAPIRO: That's attorney and NYU law professor Andrew Weissmann. Thanks as always.

WEISSMANN: You're welcome. 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.

Brianna Scott is currently a producer at the Consider This podcast.
Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.