Former president Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower on May 30, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

TGIF: The Trial of the Century of the Week

Elon gears up for office. Libertarians boo Trump. Democrats not named Biden pull ahead. Plus: the Ayatollah thanks American students, the Pope throws a curveball, and much more.

Hello and welcome back. Slow news week. Let’s get to it. 

→ Orange is the new orange: On Thursday afternoon Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to adult actress Stormy Daniels. His sentencing has been scheduled for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention. He faces a possible sentence of four years for each count.

Now, I’m all for jailing politicians. But the idea that counting hush-money payments as a business expense should lead to 34 felonies? This is the big crime? Of all the various legal efforts that might lock Trump up or bankrupt him before the election, the New York endeavors always seemed like the weirdest and most obviously political. Even cable news analysts are baffled when it comes to the specifics, and here I’m pulling from the reporter Byron York who brings us tales from cable news, like a CNN analyst: “The crime here is not easy to explain or understand.” MSNBC analyst: “It is difficult because it’s a very nuanced argument. . . . It’s never been prosecuted before.” 

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg had to dig. To raise Trump’s questionable accounting to the level of a felony, the prosecution had to demonstrate that it had been done in aid of another crime. As Eli Lake explained last month, there was no other crime per se. So what did the DA do? He dug up an obscure New York election law to claim Trump had used “unlawful means to influence an election.” In closing arguments, prosecution lawyers argued that the hush money “could very well be what got President Trump elected” and that he conspired “to manipulate and defraud the voters.” In other words, the election was stolen. Rigged, if you will. For smart takes on why this situation is a mess, read Sohrab Ahmari and Rich Lowry

Trump’s lawyers were also pretty bad at their jobs, or at least were instructed to pick the politically expedient defense rather than sticking to the argument that would have minimized the chances of a conviction. In other words, they didn’t want to admit that Trump had hooked up with Stormy Daniels, so they argued over the facts rather than presenting the whole prosecution as legally nonsensical. (Notably, Melania is the only family member who has not posted anything to defend Trump as of late Thursday night. We salute all women scorned.)

So the presidential front-runner is a felon. It’s unclear what it will mean: a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that “67 percent of voters said a conviction would make no difference for them in November, including 74 percent of independents.” Fifteen percent of voters said a guilty verdict would make them more likely to vote for Trump, while 17 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for the former president.   

You might recall that June is Pride month (thank you for wishing me a happy one!) and a lot of unlikely folks are coming out as MAGA, like Silicon Valley investor Shaun Maguire and Wall Street king Bill Ackman. In the hours after the verdict, the various Trump and GOP campaign websites crashed from a flood of donations. 

My War Queen Hillary took to Instagram to post a new mug for sale that has her outline and the words: “Turns out she was right about everything.” In the game of Lock Her Up, Hillary Clinton waited things out. And it might be dirty; it is a little reminiscent of a banana republic to imprison the opposition, yes. But in the end, there may well be a lock, and Hilz will be holding the key.

We’ve never flown this fascist flag: For some reason, everyone decided that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s Appeal to Heaven flag (a pine tree + the words Appeal to Heaven) was a sign of his fascism. And this was just about the biggest news of the week. I’ll present just The Washington Post’s flag headlines. These are a selection from a single week (there were more): 

  • New Alito flag report triggers fresh Democratic outrage

  • Second flag carried by Jan. 6 rioters displayed outside house owned by Justice Alito, report says

  • The ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag evolves from Revolutionary War symbol to banner of the far right

  • Alito rejects calls to quit Supreme Court cases on Trump and Jan. 6 because of flag controversies

  • To recuse or refuse? A look at Supreme Court justices’ decisions on whether to step aside in cases

  • The flags were redundant

The flag, which dates back to the Revolutionary War, is big news. Recuse yourself–worthy, resignation-worthy. The flag is demonic right-wing, domestic terrorism, and we all know that and always knew that.

Which is why the city of San Francisco this week had to take that very same flag down from outside City Hall. Wait, what? Well, the City of San Francisco has flown that same Appeal to Heaven flag outside City Hall since 1964. It’s a pretty common flag. Pretty cool flag.

As city parks officials explained to the San Francisco Chronicle when taking down the flag, it once represented a “quest for American independence,” but now it has “since been adopted by a different group—one that doesn’t represent the city’s values.” Nobody knew the flag was MAGA until Justice Alito flew it. Justice Alito, however, should have known it was evil, so the argument goes, since by flying it he made it evil. Okay, well. Commenters, please add what else Justice Alito needs to endorse so that it can become shameful, and if you agree that he should start with the term fur baby. As for the other Alito flag controversy, the upside-down American flag, turns out The Washington Post saw that when it was briefly flying in 2021 and decided not to report on it since it wasn’t really a story, but now that the election’s coming up, everyone’s going through their diaries.

→ The new Gaza aid pier floats away: After spending $320 million and two months to build a pier to deliver aid into Gaza, American soldiers watched as that pier broke off and floated away. The great aid pier lasted eight days, and almost all the aid that came over that pier was immediately looted by Hamas. But the important thing is that everyone gave it their all. It’s not about winning or losing or getting food to starving Palestinians or undercutting the power of Hamas; it’s that we all came together and shared a sense of community and respect and dropped that cement sidewalk in the ocean. It’s that we all know that finding someone with expertise in wave patterns and rain is violence that has no place here. The Palestinians may not understand yet, but this is us showing solidarity. Everyone gets a medal. 

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