Editorial: Even before guilty verdict, Trump was unfit to serve

Former President Trump sits in court wearing a yellowish tie.
Former President Trump before the start of proceedings Wednesday in his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court.
(Charly Triballeau / Associated Press)

The felony conviction of Donald Trump in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday was a momentous event, even if the charges — falsifying business records — are less weighty than others the former president is facing. The prospect of a convicted felon being elected president ought to give pause to voters who haven’t been persuaded to reject him despite his manifest unfitness.

Trump was convicted of all 34 counts in the indictment accusing of him of falsifying business records related to payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen. Prosecutors argued that the payments were reimbursements for money Cohen provided out of his own pocket to adult film star and director Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter in 2006 with Trump that if made public could have affected the outcome of the 2016 election.

Donald Trump faces multiple criminal charges, but a conviction would not legally prevent him from serving as president — in theory, even from jail.

May 30, 2024

Ordinarily, falsifying business records is a misdemeanor, but the prosecution contended that it rose to the level of a felony because it was done to conceal another crime such as a violation of federal campaign finance law. That layered argument provoked considerable criticism from actual lawyers and the armchair variety, but the jury seems to have grasped its complexity and concluded that Trump was guilty.


The charges of which Trump has been convicted pale in comparison with the other charges he faces connected with his attempt to overturn the 2020 election and his retention of national defense documents after he left the White House. Lamentably, it seems unlikely that he will face trial on those allegations before the November election. To its discredit, the Supreme Court has contributed to the delay of a trial of Trump on federal charges connected to the 2020 election by dithering on Trump’s absurd claim of immunity for “official acts,” defined broadly to cover some of his election-related actions.

Supreme Court justices’ questions during oral argument on Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from criminal acts indicate that they see that giving dictator-like powers to U.S. presidents is dangerous.

April 25, 2024

Trump’s unfitness for another term as president does not depend on the outcome of any of these prosecutions. Even if he had been an exemplary chief executive — which he wasn’t — he should be disqualified for scheming to overturn the 2020 election, a disgraceful assault on democracy that culminated in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s outrageous attempt to subvert the democratic process isn’t the only reason to oppose his return to the White House. He also should be rejected by voters because of his authoritarian tendencies, his propensity for falsehoods and his volatile temperament. The latter two character flaws were evident in his unhinged attacks on the judge in this case and his incredible claim that his prosecution by the state of New York was instigated by the Biden administration. (After the verdict was announced, Trump also asserted that the trial had been “rigged,” the same absurd accusation he has continued to make about the 2020 election he lost.)

It shouldn’t take a criminal conviction to convince conscientious voters of Trump’s epic unfitness. But those who support him must now reckon with the fact that their candidate of choice is a convicted felon.