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Friday, May 31, 2024

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She Made an Offer on a Condo. Then the Seller Learned She Was Black.

She Made an Offer on a Condo. Then the Seller Learned She Was Black.

“A Black woman claims a white homeowner tried to pull out of a sale because of her race.

A woman in a bright pink jacket with long hair stands with her hands folded, looking off into the distance.
Dr. Raven Baxter, a molecular biologist, was in escrow on a new home when she was told the seller didn’t want to hand over the keys to a Black person.Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Perched on a hill with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, the condo in Virginia Beach was just what Dr. Raven Baxter wanted. It had a marble fireplace, a private foyer and details like crown molding and wainscoting in its three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

At $749,000, it was within her budget, too. She offered the asking price, which was accepted, and sent over a down payment. And then when she was in escrow earlier this month, her broker called her late at night on May 17, a Friday,  with some bad news.

The seller wanted to pull out of the deal. 

Why? “You could hear the fear and disbelief in his voice,” Dr. Baxter said, recalling what her broker told her next. “He said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but she doesn’t want to sell the home to you, and it’s because you’re Black.’” 

The seller, Jane Walker, 84, is white.

Ms. Walker did not respond to requests for comment. Bill Loftis, Dr. Baxter’s broker, said, “We have no comment on this as we can’t do anything to jeopardize our clients [sic]transaction.”

The situation spilled out into the open a few hours later, when Dr. Baxter, 35, a molecular biologist and science communicator who runs the website Dr. Raven the Science Maven, shared what happened in a post on X. Her public airing to 163,000 followers and others has drawn attention to bias that continues to plague the housing industry, and the laws that are supposed to prohibit discrimination, even as Dr. Baxter took steps to continue to ultimately buy the condo.

Two federal laws — the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the much older Civil Rights Act of 1866 — make it illegal for both home sellers and their real estate agents to discriminate during a home sale.  But more than 50 years after redlining was outlawed, racial discrimination remains an issue, housing advocates say. A multiyear undercover investigation by the National Fair Housing Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit coalition of housing organizations, found that 87 percent of real estate agents participated in racial steering, opting to show their clients homes only in neighborhoods where most of the neighbors were of their same race. Agents also refused to work with Black buyers and showed Black and Latino buyers fewer homes than white buyers.

Following the recommendation of commenters on her social media post, Dr. Baxter filed a claim of discrimination with the Virginia Fair Housing Office and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She also reached out to a civil rights attorney.

“Had I not gone to Twitter and received help from people who knew what they were doing, I would have been panicking the entire weekend,” Dr. Baxter said. “It was my first time buying a house. I knew my civil rights were being violated. I knew that something illegal was happening, but no one knew what to do.”

‘Fell Back in My Chair’

Dr. Baxter, who works remotely for Mt. Sinai hospital in New York, currently shares a rented apartment in Alexandria, Va., with her boyfriend, Dr. Ronald Gamble Jr., 30, a theoretical astrophysicist. After a divorce two years ago, she was eager to own a home outright, and Dr. Gamble encouraged her to find a house near the beach, which has long been a dream of hers. He promised to split his time between the new house and Washington, D.C., where he works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Dr. Baxter first saw the listing for the Virginia Beach condo in early May on Zillow, and contacted the agent, Wayne Miller, who offered to visit it for her and provide a tour over FaceTime. 

Dr. Baxter kept her camera off while Mr. Miller, who is white, toured the home with Ms. Walker’s agent as one of the guides. The virtual tour was enough for Dr. Baxter to jump with an offer.

“It’s a classic home with a ton of character. It’s absolutely gorgeous and you can walk to the beach. It was like a steal,” she said. “I basically put in an offer sight unseen.”

Two weeks later, with the home sale in escrow and on the same day of a home inspection, Dr. Baxter and Dr. Gamble made the three-hour drive to Virginia Beach to see the house in person for the first time. Ms. Walker arrived as the couple was leaving, and Ms. Walker’s agent, Susan Pender of Berkshire Hathaway RW Towne Realty, introduced the seller to the buyer.

Shortly after Dr. Baxter and Dr. Gamble drove away from the home, Ms. Walker informed her agent that she was not willing to sell to her home to a person who is Black and she wished to cancel the sale, according to a chronology of events compiled by Mr. Miller and shared with The New York Times by Dr. Baxter. Mr. Miller declined to comment, and Ms. Pender did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

But what followed, according to Dr. Baxter and Dr. Gamble and supported by Mr. Miller’s recounted, written timeline, was a series of frantic actions by real estate agents on both sides focused on salvaging the home deal.

Ms. Walker’s agent called Mr. Miller to say Ms. Walker wanted to back out of the home sale. Mr. Miller, in turn, called Mr. Loftis, who is the supervising broker for 757 Realty, where Mr. Miller is an agent, to ask for guidance.

As Dr. Baxter was getting ready for bed at a hotel in Virginia Beach later that evening, she got the phone call from Mr. Loftis. 

She put the phone on speaker so that Dr. Gamble, who was working on his research in the hotel room at the time of the call, could hear the conversation. 

“I kind of fell back in my chair,” Dr. Gamble said. “I could not believe what I was hearing. Well after the Civil Rights movement, after Covid, after George Floyd, you would think society isn’t still thinking this way. But in 2024, they still are.”

In a flurry of emails and calls over the next 24 hours, which were received and recorded by Dr. Baxter and reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Miller and Mr. Loftis expressed shock at the turn of events and sympathy for Dr. Baxter. They also assured her the home sale would go through despite the seller’s wishes. 

They did not immediately offer guidance on how Dr. Baxter could protect herself legally or file a discrimination complaint under the Fair Housing Act. Representatives with both HUD and the National Fair Housing Alliance advised that this should have been their first step. 

Dr. Baxter turned to social media just after midnight on Saturday. She was defiant, ending her post with, “Baby, I’m either buying your house or buying YOUR BLOCK. CHOOSE ONE.”

‘We Handled This’

Hours later, Mr. Loftis wrote in an email to Ms. Baxter. “It was unfortunate that the seller took her position to bring Race [sic] into the process,” he wrote. “It sounds like the seller’s kids were able to turn her around. While it was an unfortunate issue, hopefully your purchase is back on track.”

Mr. Miller called Dr. Baxter, who said she was panicking that she would lose the home. In that conversation, he encouraged her to sign an inspection contingency removal addendum, releasing the seller of all obligations to make repairs on the home, despite the home’s inspection revealing an air-conditioning system that was more than 30 years old and in need of upgrade. Two days later, on the instructions of Mr. Loftis, Mr. Miller sent Dr. Baxter an email with a link to Virginia’s fair housing complaint form. 

In an email, Jay Mitchell, a supervising broker at Berkshire Hathaway RW Towne Realty, wrote that neither party had withdrawn from the transaction. “As a company, we condemn any kind of discrimination regardless of the source or the target. All of our agents and staff are fully trained on being aware of discrimination in its many forms,” he said. He declined to answer further questions.

A spokeswoman for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the residential real estate firm owned by Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, said that RW Towne Realty was an independently owned and operated company that only licensed the Berkshire Hathaway name. 

“Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and its parent company, HomeServices of America, strictly adhere to The Fair Housing Act and do not tolerate discrimination of any nature,” she added.

Shortly after The New York Times contacted Mr. Mitchell, Dr. Baxter received an email from Barbara Wolcott, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway RW Towne Realty.

“In light of the actions of our horribly misguided seller, I feel compelled to send you this email,” she wrote. “Please be assured that the attitude of this individual is not something that is tolerated by Berkshire Hathaway RW Towne Realty, Susan Pender, or anyone within our organization or area.”

When reached by phone and asked how Berkshire Hathaway RW Towne Realty was not tolerating the actions of the seller, Ms. Wolcott said, “We handled this. All you need to know is it was corrected the next day,” and declined to answer further questions.

Dr. Baxter’s home sale remains set to close later this summer. But even if the deal goes through, her rights under the Fair Housing Act have still been potentially violated, said Brenda Castañeda, deputy director of advocacy for HOME of VA, a nonprofit that assists Virginians who believe they have experienced housing discrimination. Real estate agents are required by law to not discriminate, which means they must inform sellers who insist on acting with prejudice that they will not represent them, and extricate themselves from a sale if the seller will not acquiesce. But there are other ways discrimination can play out.

“I don’t know that you can cure discrimination just by changing your mind and going through with the deal,” Ms. Castañeda said, adding that the actions of the real estate agents on both sides could also be a violation. “There may be damages experienced by that person because they’ve experienced a loss of their civil rights and the distress of having a discriminatory statement said to them.”

She added, “Dr. Baxter has experienced harm whether the transaction goes through or not. We just want this to be a wake-up call to people.”

How Many Americans Will Rationalize Voting for a Felon?

How Many Americans Will Rationalize Voting for a Felon?

“Three Opinion writers on the Donald Trump hush-money verdict.

With Lydia Polgreen in South Africa covering its elections, Ross Douthat out on parental leave and Michelle Cottle reporting from a saloon in Colorado, Carlos Lozada turns the “Matter of Opinion” mic over to his Times Opinion colleagues to respond to the news about Donald Trump’s guilty verdict in the New York hush-money trial.

The columnists Michelle Goldberg and David French — who calls himself “a recovering litigator” — join the deputy Opinion editor, Patrick Healy, to discuss Trump’s 34 guilty counts and debate what they mean for the former president, whether he’ll face prison time and how it will affect the 2024 presidential race.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation. To listen to this episode, click the play button below.

How Many Americans Will Rationalize Voting for a Felon?

Three Opinion writers on the Donald Trump hush-money verdict.

Patrick Healy: Donald Trump has been found guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the hush-money case. There’s really no other word but “historic” for this moment. And we’re in uncharted waters, in terms of the political implications of Trump’s conviction and what it’ll mean for the presidential race, for American unity and for the future.

Guys, we’re recording this just two hours after the verdict was delivered. In one word, how are you both feeling?

Michelle Goldberg: Thrilled.

David French: Unsurprised.

Healy: Oh, David, you took my word. [Laughter] OK, we’re going to have to arm-wrestle, but Michelle, you go first. Why “thrilled”?

Goldberg: So it’s not that I think that this is going to finally put an end to Donald Trump or even change the trajectory of the election all that much. But I do think that if there had been a hung jury or an acquittal, it would have been really good for Trump and it would have given him even more wind at his back going into the election.

Whereas this is, I think, a reminder that Trump’s aura of invincibility can be pierced. That he loses in court again and again and again. The fact that our political system has proved so unequal to restraining his rampant criminality has, I think, given people a feeling of hopelessness. And I hope that this verdict punctures that a little bit, because when he’s judged the way other people are judged, again and again, people, juries, judges see through his misdoings.

Healy: It’s so true. The institutions really have held up. David, why “surprised”?

French: “Unsurprised.”

Healy: “Unsurprised.” I apologize. We’re really going to arm-wrestle, then. [Laughter]

French: Well, I’m not surprised because the strength of this case was in the facts of the case, and that’s what a jury decides. A jury decides the facts. The judge decides the law. The court of appeals decides if the legal posture of the case was correct. But the jury addresses the facts. And the facts here are stronger than we knew they were going into the trial.

Going into the trial, I thought that the evidence that Donald Trump falsified business records and that he falsified business records with the consciousness of guilt surrounding the entire hush-money process. I thought the prosecution could make that stick. Then during the trial itself, the facts of the case were stronger than I believed before.

One of the things that I thought was particularly important in the case was actually the Stormy Daniels testimony. What the Stormy Daniels testimony did is it showed clearly and unequivocally why he would want to pay hush money, because she had a terrible story to tell.

And at that time in the campaign when she came forward, right after the “Access Hollywood” tape dropped, and said: I’ve got a story to tell — it was critical for him to suppress as much as he could.

So the prosecution had a very compelling story to tell, which was: He was going to bury this, and he was going to spend a lot of money to bury it, and he knew there was something about it that was wrong. That’s why it was concealed. That’s why the payments were mislabeled. And so nothing about the verdict actually surprises me.

Goldberg: I was in the courtroom for a couple of days, including for closing arguments, and what struck me is that the discourse around the case has been sort of meta: Should Alvin Bragg have brought it? What will conviction mean to the election? But in the courtroom, it was: Did Donald Trump do these things that he’s accused of? And it was so obvious that he did.

And even though lawyers I spoke to thought that Donald Trump’s defense attorney did OK with what he had, from where I sit, his arguments just seemed so ludicrous. He can’t argue in court that Donald Trump is being unfairly persecuted for something that other people get away with. So instead, he’s arguing that Donald Trump never had sex with that woman, kind of echoing Bill Clinton.

Then he is arguing that the $420,000 that Michael Cohen was paid to reimburse him for paying off Stormy Daniels was a legitimate legal fee based on a handshake or verbal retainer agreement that they had for Cohen to act as his personal lawyer. It was preposterous.

The other thing that they argued, which also I thought was ridiculous, was that — David’s talking about how important the “Access Hollywood” tape is in understanding the kind of chronology and motivations — one of the things that Donald Trump’s defense attorney tried to argue was that the “Access Hollywood” tape actually didn’t matter that much. That it was a bad day and there was going to be a few days of aggravation but that people were exaggerating and thinking that this was a major moment in the campaign — which is just, if you lived through it, that’s ridiculous.

French: I think, Michelle, the precise legal word for that argument is “bonkers.” [Laughter]

It’s just wild. We all remember it. This was the biggest story in America, and this was the first time that you began to see Republicans fleeing the campaign after the convention. After the Republicans consolidated at the convention, you began to see cracks in the facade after the “Access Hollywood” tape.

That was a nine-alarm fire. That was an emergency for the campaign.

Healy: And yet he held it together. And that goes to why I felt surprised by this. It touches on things that you two have both raised now. While our institutions have often held up, where —

Goldberg: Well, I think our legal institutions —

Healy: Our legal institutions have held up. That’s the thing — the ability of Donald Trump and his team to have a playbook for almost any situation where at the end of the day, even if reputations are scarred and people are thrown under the bus, he is still able to evade accountability. I only really saw that in the 2020 election, ultimately at the ballot box.

And I’ve just found myself thinking, and maybe it’s a little jaded, but you get 12 jurors in a room, hearing the evidence, that there may be just one or two that see a former president in the dock and want such clear, smoking-gun-level, “Law & Order” drama that just really kind of nails him —

Goldberg: But they had it.

Healy: They had it, but they —

Goldberg: They had smoking — I mean they —

Healy: But they didn’t literally have Donald Trump saying a version of what he said in Georgia, which was, you know: Find me the umpteen thousand votes I need to get —

Goldberg: But they had tapes with him and Michael Cohen talking about the payment to Stormy Daniels. A lot of people were worried — and I was worried — that there was one juror that was sort of in the tank for Trump.

The Trump campaign was floating this theory that one Trump juror kept making meaningful eye contact with them, that they were lighting up when J.D. Vance came into the room. So I certainly worried about that, but in terms of the evidence, it was just so incredibly open-and-shut.

A photo illustration of Donald Trump, looking down, as if in a photograph on a newspaper page, with one edge folded over, showing text on the other side.
Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

Healy: Let me ask you, Michelle: Who do you think was the key witness, in your opinion, looking back on it, that got to conviction on all the charges?

Goldberg: Oh, God, that’s really hard. I mean, I think that Hope Hicks was really important because she obviously wasn’t trying to throw Donald Trump under the bus and actually burst into tears. But she also blew up the whole story, again, that the “Access Hollywood” tape wasn’t a big deal.

Healy: Yep. David, what about you?

French: You know, I think of a number of people. I think when early in the trial, when they set up the catch-and-kill process and sort of showed how all of that works, I think that was very important. It’s a very simple and easy-to-understand way of explaining how he suppressed negative information. And one of the things you learn in a jury trial is the side that can tell the most compelling and easy-to-understand story has an immense advantage. And the prosecution here had a real advantage because they had a very compelling story, which was: To save his campaign, he was going to pay hush money, and as part of paying hush money, he had to conceal it. The hush applied in all directions.

He was concealing it from the public. He was even disguising the payments internally. All of this was designed to save this campaign that was in a point of crisis and floundering. That’s an elevator pitch. That’s a quick statement of the case.

And then they proceeded to, in detail, provide the substantiation. That’s not to say that the case was necessarily a complete slam-dunk. There were factual elements that the defense could have made more hay on, but I’m not necessarily convinced that the defense was tainted, in my view, too much by keeping one eye on the politics of the case.

Goldberg: Well, the defense had to burn a lot of their credibility — or I don’t know about a lot of their credibility, but the defense had to burn some of their credibility — insisting that this affair never happened.

Healy: Right.

Goldberg: Or actually calling it an affair is an overstatement but insisting that the sex never happened.

Healy: David, I want to ask you: This is guilty on all 34 felony counts, not just a few but all 34 counts. How significant is that?

French: Well, it’s very significant in two directions. First, this is about as thorough a drubbing that you’re going to see a prosecution inflict on a defense at trial. A conviction on all counts is quite significant independently.

The other thing, though, that is very significant is you have this conviction on all counts against a backdrop where Trump has been repeatedly held in contempt during the course of this trial, he demonstrates, at least so far, zero remorse at all.

So when you’re talking about sentencing and what sentencing will look like, you’ll have a verdict on all counts, a defendant who shows zero remorse and a defendant who’s been held in contempt multiple times during the criminal proceeding.

Now in normal cases, that tends to mean that sentencing gets more draconian because judges are looking for contrition. They are looking for cooperation. They are looking for some reason to mitigate the sentence.

Healy: Not this guy, David. [Laughter]

French: Not this guy. In this case, the most mitigating factor is, of course, this is his first conviction of a nonviolent felony. And you don’t typically get jail time in that circumstance, or you don’t typically get hit with the harder-edge sentence. In this case, the first-time nonviolent felony is balanced against 34 counts, no remorse, multiple acts of contempt.

And so it’s going to be very interesting to see how the judge resolves this and sentencing in July.

Healy: Yeah, let’s just clear that up right now, because you two are the best in the business with predictions. [Laughter]

Is Trump going to jail, Michelle? Is Trump — in terms of that sentence and it’s a first conviction, but there’s no contrition — is he going to go to jail?

Goldberg: So I’m not going to hazard a guess as to whether or not he goes to jail for this.

I think the question of whether or not Donald Trump ultimately goes to jail is one of the central issues in this election. If he loses, I think he goes to jail on something, right?

This was the least serious of the felony trials that await him. Some of those have been postponed through the machinations of his various lackeys on the Supreme Court and on other courts, but they’re going to happen eventually.

And I think that this, again, is a shot in the arm. It’s a reminder to people that this can happen.

But if Donald Trump is elected, even if he gets sentenced to jail in July, he appeals, right? And presumably he’s on bail pending appeal, and this stretches past the election. And then you kind of have this question of Donald Trump in office, with the jail sentence on the other side and already a disinclination to leave.

He’s already started talking, kind of kidding, not kidding, about serving three terms. But for those of us who are worried that Donald Trump becomes president again, he is not going to leave the White House voluntarily while he’s still alive. I think that the prospect of a jail sentence on the other end heightens that concern.

Healy: Michelle, you have my head spinning in these scenarios. [Laughter] But I think you’re absolutely right about all of them.

David, the jury came back in just two days, a relatively quick return, and as I said, guilty on all counts.

And I’m thinking about Michelle’s point just about jail time sooner rather than later. I am wondering if this judge in sentencing in July looks at that quick verdict, that absolute certainty verdict and does come back with some jail time. What do you think? And does the timing affect it at all? Or is that just apples and oranges?

French: Even though Trump has not been remorseful, even though Trump was cited multiple times for contempt, I’m still of the view that it’s a stretch that he’ll serve time in prison because of that first-time nonviolent felony status.

I’m much less confident of that than I was three weeks ago, four weeks ago.

Three or four weeks ago, I would have said: No, Patrick, no way he’s going to serve time in jail. Now I’m not as sure. I would still be surprised. But what I would also say is — Michelle hit on something very important — there’s an appeal coming here, and so this case is not over.

There is going to be an appeal, and the appeal will be fought on the grounds where the prosecution is weakest, and the prosecution is weakest when it comes to the underlying legal theory.

Healy: Michelle, you attended the trial, and you wrote about how a lot of Americans are really kind of tuning out the proceedings. I’m very interested in the impact that this verdict is going to have, particularly on swing voters, just in the weeks and months to come.

As we sit here now, it’s a historic result. But what kinds of impact do you think the verdict might have on certain voters, on the election?

Goldberg: So, look, obviously I think most voters are locked in, and I don’t believe those surveys in which 15, 17 percent of voters say that a conviction will change their minds. I think most of them will be able to rationalize voting for a felon.

But our elections tend to be extremely close. And so it doesn’t have to change that many people’s minds for it to have a big impact.

I think a lot of people, for example, in 2016, think that James Comey reopening the case against Hillary Clinton was something that was decisive in that election. Even though, you think about, “Who are the people who were going to vote for Hillary Clinton and then that changed their mind?”

Inasmuch as there’s a tipping point of scandal and inasmuch as people think, “Well, this is just going to be too chaotic to have a president who might be in jail or who’s running to keep himself out of jail.” Again, it doesn’t have to change that many minds for it to be really important.

And then the other thing I’d say is that part of the impact could be precisely because people haven’t been paying a lot of attention. The New York Times/Siena poll of swing voters showed that most of them did not expect him to be convicted — large numbers of Republicans but also independents and even pretty significant numbers of Democrats.

So the fact that he was convicted is going to be jarring for some people and, again, may cause at least a few of them to rethink some of their priors.

Healy: It’s such an important point, Michelle. Throughout the primaries, last year and into this year, so many people thought he wouldn’t get convicted.

There were Republicans in our New York Times focus groups who didn’t think Donald Trump would be the nominee, that there were too many obstacles to him.

There is such a power that comes from the simple fact that he has now been convicted. And I’m not sure how that gets messaged by the other side, but with five months to go, I think that there will be voters in those suburbs of Philadelphia or in some of the northern parts of Wisconsin that can be on the swingier side and that care to some degree about ethics and government.

Goldberg: And let’s remember, he’s going to be sentenced, like, three or four days before the Republican convention. So this is going to stay top of mind.

Healy: Totally.

French: You know, the other thing about this that I think is very interesting is: The people who are the repeat voters, the 2020 voters, the people who are most engaged — they’re Biden.

It’s the people who are disengaged that are supporting Trump. The people who are the lower-propensity voters, the less engaged people, tend to support Trump.

That’s a huge challenge for the Biden campaign because you can sit there and say to them, “Well, you need to change your messaging” or “You need to change your strategy in some way.” But if the voters are disengaged, they won’t know anything about the messaging change.

You know what does break through? “Trump convicted.” Those two words, “Trump convicted.” That’s something that breaks through, even if you’re only getting your news occasionally on TikTok or on Facebook.

And I think that this has a real potential to break through with the very disengaged voters that are Biden’s weakness right now. And yes, some of them will reflexively sort of have that distrust of institutions and say this was political. But others are going to be surprised to hear that Donald Trump was convicted of a felony, and that will shake some people.

And I’m not naïve. I know that some hope that the dam will break and all the Trump support will be washed away. That’s 2016 thinking. That’s not 2024 thinking.

But what is possible is more erosion. More chipping away at that Trump support. The more the disengaged voters are exposed to those two words, “Trump convicted,” the more that might make a difference.

But I have to raise the issue of the appeal again. Here’s something I’m worried about: I’m worried about a situation where Trump is convicted, he loses a close election and then the case is tossed on appeal, which is quite possible. And I think that could be a very negative development, if that happens, and I’m actually quite worried about that.

Healy: I think you’re talking about a short-term point and a long-term point, David, that are really important. Short term, language that can break through is so important. In 2016 we had “Build the wall,” “Mexico will pay for it,” “Lock her up.” There were just certain phrases, as outrageous as they were, that stayed with people.

In 2020 there was a certain degree of, like, normalcy or “Let’s just get back to normal.” That was sort of a soft pitch, but it worked for a lot of people. It spoke to where they were.

“Trump convicted” may not be a hopeful or aspirational message, but it is something that brands the opponent better than trying to convince people that the economy wasn’t as great under Donald Trump as it was under Joe Biden. The risk of explaining politics too much doesn’t redound in the same way as one kind of like strong message like “Trump convicted.”

Now longer term, I mentioned at the top about American unity. I am very curious about how this washes out. I think Michelle is right that those other cases are more likely to lead to jail time.

But when history gets written and the MAGA base still exists four, eight years from now, if Donald Trump looks like he’s someone who was kind of put through the legal ringer and there was what seems to people like unfairness, witch hunt, rigged system. If there’s questions about appeal, if it turns out messier than one might hope, that could have its own damaging effect.

Goldberg: But wait. Can I just push back on that a little bit?

Healy: Sure.

Goldberg: Because I just feel like we never talk about the sense of injustice experienced by people who’ve had to watch Donald Trump enjoy impunity over and over again.

There’s a lot of people who have lost faith in — and I include myself among them — who started out cynical about the Supreme Court and who now see it as a wholly corrupt institution. I feel like there’s always a lot of worry about the MAGA base and their view of the legitimacy of institutions. And again, I just think that the MAGA base is going to feel victimized almost no matter what happens, right?

They won an election in 2016, despite losing the popular vote really decisively, and then spent four years feeling like they had somehow been mistreated. So that’s happening, no matter what.

I do think that one thing that could potentially, and again, this might be wishful thinking: Donald Trump loses this election — maybe this is just, like, kind of hopium, but I don’t think if he loses, he’s going to be the candidate in 2028. And so if the Republicans lose another election against an extremely unpopular incumbent, you have to think that there’s going to be some sort of reckoning.

I’m old enough to remember when people treated George W. Bush as this kind of godly figure. This paragon of manliness. There were these caricatures with this bulging codpiece. It was disgusting.

And then he became a loser and something that people were ashamed of and didn’t want to be associated with. That could happen here if he doesn’t lead them to the promised land.

Healy: Yeah, Michelle, I think you’re right. I mean, the dam isn’t going to break just because of “Trump convicted.”

I think it can it can get through to a lot of people. The fever on the right is certainly not going to break, but I think what it will take is that loss in November, yet another setback. A party that at least part of it has to ask themselves, “Is this the best that we can do?”

I feel like the big idea that I’m hearing from the two of you is that this is a historic conviction, no doubt, and that institutions held once again and did their job, in terms of holding Donald Trump to account.

And yet the Trump story is not over, and for a result that has a stamp of finality on Trump’s influence over America, at the end of the day, it really is going to happen at the ballot box. It’s not going to happen through all these trials. As important as they are, as legitimate as the charges are. Trump’s influence and staying power in American politics ultimately really comes down to a vote, to the ballot box. Fair? Unfair?

Goldberg: I think that’s right. And I think that a lot of people tuned out this trial because they sort of knew that, you know, whatever the verdict, the real verdict is in November.

Patrick: David, what do you think?

French: So I think that the ballot box is really going to tell Trump’s fate. But I will say this: that when you’re talking about a person who has been found liable for sex abuse, he’s now been convicted of a felony, and then if he wins the election —

Goldberg: And also, don’t forget the kind of massive fraud he was involved with his company.

French: Yeah, defamation, also, of the person he abused. I mean, there’s so much here. He’s been found liable for fraud. He’s been found liable for sex abuse. He’s been found liable for defamation. Now he’s been convicted as a felon.

If he wins anyway, the religious zeal around Donald Trump will be something to see. If we think that there has been a Trump cult already, if he wins in spite of all of this, the Trump cult will be — we will have seen nothing yet, is what I would say. And the level at which he would feel empowered to execute his objectives of vengeance — it would get truly scary, truly scary.

So in my view, in an interesting way, this verdict only increased the stakes of the election.

And the thing that worries me about that is, to circle back to the very thing that we talked about a few minutes ago, which is: Right now, it looks like the election is going to stand or fall based on the least engaged people in the United States. And that is an environment where, if I’m a political consultant, that is a frustrating reality. Because Donald Trump could win in large part because people who don’t follow any of this and don’t pay close attention to any of this put him over the top.

And then if that occurs, the religious zeal of his base, as I said, will be something to see, and the vengeance will get very dangerous very quickly.

Healy: David, Michelle, it’s so great to talk to you both. Thanks for gathering so quickly.

This audio was produced by Vishakha Darbha, Sophia Alvarez Boyd and Phoebe Lett. It was edited by Kaari Pitkin, Annie-Rose Strasser, Alison Bruzek and Jordana Hochman. Mixing by Isaac Jones and Carole Sabouraud. Original music by Pat McCusker. Our fact-checking team is Kate Sinclair, Mary Marge Locker and Michelle Harris. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta and Kristina Samulewski. Our executive producer is Annie-Rose Strasser. Abundant thanks to Alison Bruzek.

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on FacebookInstagramTikTokWhatsAppX and Threads.

Michelle Goldberg has been an Opinion columnist since 2017. She is the author of several books about politics, religion and women’s rights, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2018 for reporting on workplace sexual harassment.“

After Trump’s Conviction, a Wary World Waits for the Fallout

After Trump’s Conviction, a Wary World Waits for the Fallout

Already braced for uncertainty about the U.S. election, Asia-Pacific countries are now even more unclear about the future of American diplomacy.

Mr. Trump, in a dark blue suit and bright blue tie, walks past metal police barricades with a group of other men.
Donald J. Trump in New York after his conviction on Thursday.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

“The world does not vote in American presidential elections. Nor do its jurors play a part in the American judicial system. Nevertheless, the conviction of Donald J. Trump on all 34 felony counts in a hush-money trial in a New York court on Thursday has again made clear how consequential what happens in the United States is for the rest of the planet.

Many America-watchers are grappling with the same questions posed by people in the United States: Can Mr. Trump still run for president? (Yes.) And if so, will the guilty verdicts cut into the support from his political base? (Unclear.)

Foreign observers also began wondering whether Mr. Trump, already a volatile force, would become even less likely to stay within the guardrails of normal politics if he won the presidency again in November.

“As a non-American, as a Thai, I can say this trial of a former American president has been dramatic theater, a curious spectacle,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, the director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

“But we also understand that we may be facing another Trump presidency in which he shakes up the regional security balance, threatens a trade war with China, pledges to impose tariffs on a wide range of goods and generally acts in a very stormy and belligerent way,” Mr. Thitinan added.

The convictions by a Manhattan jury come as the question of American engagement has become central in several global crises.

In Ukraine, the war effort against Russia has been stymied after Republicans in Congress delayed American military aid.

In Europe, leaders reliant on the United States for their defense are worried about a return to a more acrimonious relationship with Washington and a withdrawal of American support for hardening defenses against Russia.

In Asia, where the Biden administration perceives a growing Chinese threat and worries about a possible invasion of Taiwan, American allies are concerned about the sanctity of defense treaties that have long girded the regional security order.

And around the world, human rights activists fear that Mr. Trump’s diatribes against democracy, such as his baseless contention that his 2020 election loss was rigged, are emboldening autocrats and legitimizing repression.

Foreign analysts worry that Mr. Trump’s favored currency, unpredictability, could shake up the global order.

Still, on Friday, most foreign governments, forced to surf with every shift in the American political mood, reacted cautiously to the Trump verdict.

“I would like to refrain from commenting on matters related to judicial procedures in other countries,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Friday.

Japan takes the same position on any American presidential contest, said Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to Washington.

“It’s this Christmas thing,” Mr. Fujisaki said. “Don’t say anything until the day, and on the day, you open the box and say, ‘This is what I always wanted!’”

When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan made a state visit to Washington in April, President Biden called relations between the two countries the most important bilateral alliance in the world. With American concern rising over China’s expanding military footprint, Mr. Biden has strengthened American defense partnerships with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and others in Asia.

By contrast, while president, Mr. Trump called for Japan, which hosts more than 50,000 American troops on its soil, to pay $8 billion for the upkeep of American bases there. (It never happened.)

Still, the fundamental tension in regional geopolitics — the contest between the United States and China — will continue no matter who wins the American presidential election.

“Beijing has no illusion about Trump or Biden, given their anti-China solid stance,” said Lau Siu-kai, an adviser to the Chinese government on Hong Kong policy. “Beijing is all set for a more intense confrontation with the U.S. over technology, trade and Taiwan.”

There is a sense in Asia that it is perennially overlooked and underappreciated by U.S. presidents, particularly as crises in Europe and the Middle East have monopolized Mr. Biden’s attention. That sentiment was also felt acutely during Mr. Trump’s presidency, and for American partners in Asia it was made worse by his affinity for regional strongmen.

In addition to an evident admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Mr. Trump invited to the White House a former army chief who led a coup in Thailand and installed himself as prime minister. Mr. Trump drew accolades from Rodrigo Duterte, formerly the president of the Philippines and now under investigation by the International Criminal Court for his deadly war on drugs.

The Philippines is now led by the son of the longtime dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, who died in exile in Hawaii. Mr. Duterte drew the country closer to China during his six years in office, but Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the current president, has reoriented the country back toward the United States, permitting American bases to be built on Philippine territory to counter China. Mr. Marcos has stood up more forcefully to Beijing in the South China Sea, where the Chinese military has built bases in what an international tribunal has deemed are Philippine waters.

“Given how the Trump administration failed to pay enough attention to building partnerships with like-minded states in Asia,” said Aries A. Arugay, the chair of the political science department at the University of the Philippines Diliman, “a second Trump presidency will endanger the momentum achieved by the revitalized United States-Philippine relations.”

But Bilahari Kausikan, a former top diplomat from Singapore, cautioned against equating American values with Asian ones.

“We structure our relationship with the U.S. much more on the basis of common interests rather than common values,” he said. “And the people who are very upset over the prospect of Trump, whether in Europe or in the U.S., or people who feel that he doesn’t share their values, we don’t share the values in the first place, not all of them anyway.”

The verdict against Mr. Trump came as India was wrapping up its 44-day election season. Manoj Jha, an opposition politician, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, who is running for a third term, has employed some of the same tactics as Mr. Trump by “demonizing a section of his own population.”

“They thrive on fear,” Mr. Jha said.

In at least one regard — the prosecution of former leaders — the rest of the world is far ahead of the United States. South Korea, where four ex-presidents have been convicted of corruption and abuse of power, has made something of a national sport of imprisoning disgraced leaders. Former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac were convicted of corruption.

Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, has been charged with money laundering, among other crimes. And Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sentenced to years in prison for corruption after leading Brazil. His convictions were eventually annulled. He is again president of the country.

Camille Elemia, Choe Sang-Hun, Motoko Rich, Alexandra Stevenson, Sui-Lee Wee and Sameer Yasir contributed reporting.“

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Will Trump go to jail? Can he be president? What’s next after guilty verdict?

Donald Trump was convicted Thursday on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his New York state hush money case

Updated May 30, 2024 at 6:16 p.m. EDT|Published May 30, 2024 at 5:20 p.m. EDT
Donald Trump comments after being found guilty on 34 felony counts at Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday in New York. (Seth Wenig/AP)

“Will Trump go to jail? Can he be president? What’s next after guilty verdict?
Donald Trump was convicted Thursday on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his New York state hush money case
David Nakamura
Donald Trump comments after being found guilty on 34 felony counts at Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday in New York. (Seth Wenig/AP)
Trump New York hush money case
Donald Trump has been found guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records. Follow live updates.
Key witnesses: Several key witnesses, including Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, have taken the stand. Here’s what Cohen said during his testimony. Read full transcripts from the trial.
Gag order: New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan has twice ruled that Trump violated his gag order, which prohibits him from commenting on jurors and witnesses in the case, among others. Here are all of the times Trump has violated the gag order.
The case: The investigation involves a $130,000 payment made to Daniels, an adult-film actress, during the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s one of many ongoing investigations involving Trump. Here are some of the key people in the case.
The charges: Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Falsifying business records is a felony in New York when there is an “intent to defraud” that includes an intent to “commit another crime or to aid or conceal” another crime. He has pleaded not guilty. Here’s what to know about the charges — and any potential sentence.
What happens next?
New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan scheduled Trump’s sentencing for July 11. Trump is required to report to the New York City Department of Probation for an interview about his background, his mental health and the circumstances of his case that will be used to help compile a presentencing report.
Will Trump go to jail?
The charges against Trump are nonviolent Class E felonies, the lowest level in New York, and they are punishable by 16 months to four years in state prison. Legal experts said it is unlikely that Trump, 77, would be incarcerated, given that he had not previously been convicted of a crime.
Other options for Merchan include sentencing Trump to probation, which would mean he would need approval from a parole officer to travel outside the state. Trump also could be fined or granted a conditional discharge pegged to the requirement that he stay out of further legal trouble, legal experts said.
Trump hush money trial
Follow live updates after Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34
Can Trump still become president after being convicted?
Trump remains eligible to campaign for the presidency and serve if elected. The U.S. Constitution requires that presidential candidates be at least 35 years old, a natural-born U.S. citizen and a resident in the country for at least 14 years. The 14th Amendment, passed by Congress after the Civil War, bars anyone who participated in an insurrection from running for the presidency, but Trump has not been charged with insurrection in the three other criminal prosecutions that remain active against him.
Can Trump appeal?
Trump’s legal team will have 30 days from the New York verdict to file notice of appeal and six months to file the full appeal. Any appeals process would probably extend beyond the Nov. 5 presidential election. Legal experts said it is plausible that an appeals court would agree to stay Trump’s sentence until after the appeal is adjudicated.”