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NEW YORK: Former President Donald Trump is vowing to appeal his historic conviction, likely focusing on porn star Stormy Daniels’ salacious testimony about their alleged sexual encounter, as well as the new legal theory used by prosecutors in the case.
“We will appeal this scam,” Trump, the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, said Friday. He faces an uphill battle.
His defense attorney Todd Blanche told CNN on Thursday that Trump will appeal after his July 11 sentencing date, meaning the matter is unlikely to be resolved before his Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.
Twelve jurors found the real estate mogul-turned-politician guilty Thursday of falsifying business records to cover his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels to illegally influence the 2016 election he won.
Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies having sex with Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford. He claims the Manhattan district attorney’s office, led by Democrat Alvin Bragg, brought the charges to derail his presidential campaign.
To succeed on appeal, Trump, 77, must show that Judge Juan Merchan made significant errors in overseeing the trial.
If Trump’s appeal in New York state courts proves unsuccessful, he could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump’s lawyers would have to convince at least four of the court’s nine justices to hear his case.
To prevail, Trump would then have to prove that the state prosecution violated his federal constitutional rights and that his legal team followed proper procedures during the early stages of his legal proceedings.
Trump would not be able to bypass lower state courts to immediately appeal to the Supreme Court, but he could seek relief if, for example, he ends up in prison in the midst of his campaign.
The court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees, and it has handled other Trump-related cases in ways that have proven helpful to his candidacy.
When the court agreed in late February to accept Trump’s argument that he has absolute immunity from prosecution for actions he took as president, it postponed hearing the case until the end of April. This delay could prevent Trump’s trial in Washington on federal election subversion charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty, from taking place before the election.

IS A MAGAZINE RELEVANT?
On appeal, Trump’s lawyers will likely argue that Daniels’ testimony about a meeting at a Lake Tahoe hotel went into too much detail for a case that hinged on whether Trump falsified documents rather than whether he had sex with Daniels.
On May 7, Daniels testified that he hit Trump’s butt with a rolled-up magazine and that he did not use a condom. He mentioned the location he said they were in. She said she was “dark” and didn’t remember how they took off their clothes, although she said she didn’t consume alcohol or drugs and never said “no” to Trump during the meeting.
Defense attorney Todd Blanche twice asked Merchan to declare a mistrial based on her testimony, which he said prejudiced the 12-member jury.
“How do we get out of this situation in a way that is fair to President Trump?” Blanche said in front of the jury on May 7.
The judge denied both requests, in part because Blanche said in her April 22 opening statement that Daniels’ account of a meeting with Trump was false. Merchan said prosecutors have the right to take testimony to establish her credibility.
Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School, said none of Merchan’s decisions turned out to be clear mistakes, diminishing Trump’s lawyers’ chances of getting the conviction overturned.
“I can’t imagine that an appeals court would say that newspaper spankings justify a reversal,” said Roiphe, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

THEORY OF THE NOVEL
In addition to Daniels’ testimony, the defense could argue on appeal that the judge’s gag order limiting Trump’s public statements about witnesses violated his rights. Trump alluded to this Friday, complaining about the judge’s restrictions on the potential testimony of an election law expert whom the defense ultimately decided not to call as a witness.
“We will appeal on a lot of different things. He wouldn’t let us have witnesses. He wouldn’t let us talk, he wouldn’t let us do anything,” Trump said.
The defense is also likely to argue that the charges themselves were legally improper. Some legal experts have said the case may be vulnerable to such a challenge because the prosecution’s legal theory has not been tested on appeal.
Falsifying business records itself is a misdemeanor in New York, but is elevated to a felony if committed to aid or conceal another crime.
In this case, prosecutors alleged that Trump was trying to cover up a conspiracy in which he and Cohen were involved to advance a bid for public office by illegal means, a misdemeanor in New York state. They say the hush payment to Daniels was actually a campaign contribution that exceeded the $2,700 limit on political donations in 2016.
Urging Merchan to dismiss the case last year, Trump’s lawyers argued that New York state law did not apply to federal elections.
Merchan allowed the case to move forward, but Boston University law professor Jed Shugerman said the law was ambiguous on this point, potentially posing an issue on appeal.
George Grasso, a retired New York state judge who attended the trial, said the defense was unlikely to be able to challenge that decision.
“They will try to appeal,” Grasso said, but added that he believes the judge’s decision was correct.

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