As Americans face the historic reality of a former president’s felony conviction, Pipe Dream reached out to campus and community political leaders for their thoughts on the landmark legal proceedings. The verdict was delivered Thursday afternoon after two days of deliberations by a Manhattan jury, which unanimously found Donald Trump guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records. Trump is now open to a four-year prison sentence.

Many members of Trump’s party — including Rep. Marc Molinaro, whose district includes Binghamton, Ithaca and Cortland — have reiterated their support for the former president following the verdict’s announcement, denouncing the judicial system.

“This is how we’re going to do politics now,” Molinaro wrote. “Not through spirited debates, but by weaponizing the justice and court system to attack a political rival right before the election. This is a perversion of our justice system. The leading contender for the presidency doesn’t belong behind bars. It’s disgraceful, unprecedented, and bad for democracy.”

The verdict concludes a weeks-long trial centering around Trump’s reimbursement checks to his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, for hush-money payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels. The sentencing hearing is set for July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention, where Trump is expected to earn the party’s nomination for the Nov. 5 presidential election.

“Yesterday’s verdict reaffirms the American value that nobody is above the law,” wrote Karen Beebe, the Broome County Democratic Party chair. “While the accountability set by a New York jury is reason to celebrate, this is still an unfortunate stain on the history of our nation. We deserve better than a crook to lead this country. President Biden has signed major infrastructure legislation, capped the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 a month, forgiven federal student loan debt for millions of Americans, and the list goes on. The choice for 2024 is clear.”

Comson Cao, the College Republicans vice president and an undeclared rising sophomore, said that a second crime must be committed for the falsification of business records to be a felony. He criticized New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan’s direction that since there were three potential second crimes, unanimous agreement was not required to elevate the charge, and he expressed general disapproval of the process.

“All in all, I am inclined to believe that this case levied against Trump is meant to be a character assassination rather than a well-intentioned albeit misguided attempt at justice,” Cao wrote. “I do not think for a moment that those involved in the prosecution, most especially [Manhattan District Attorney] Alvin Bragg, actually cared about what Trump had done. It had gone for years practically unnoticed and unmentioned by the mainstream media and only when the presidential election was beginning to roll around again did people just suddenly decide that this was a relevant matter that needed to be tackled.”

Trump has announced his intention to appeal the conviction as three additional criminal cases loom. One in South Florida was filed by Jack Smith, a Department of Justice special counsel who charged Trump with 40 counts related to his alleged mishandling of government documents. He also faces federal charges in Washington D.C. for allegedly attempting to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election.

A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has charged Trump with 13 state felony counts — three of which were thrown out in March — for contributing to a scheme to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

Ryan Gaire, the College Democrats president and a rising junior majoring in political science, said the conviction proves no one, not even a former president, is above the law.

“Yet, in a few weeks, Trump will officially be nominated to run for president AGAIN,” Gaire wrote. “Given the crimes that he has been convicted for, and the fact that he still has outstanding criminal cases against him for both stealing classified documents from the White House as well as inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — not to mention the tens of millions of Americans who would be endangered by his policies in a potential second term — it is critical that he is defeated this fall to protect our country.”

Shane Rossi, the president of College Republicans and a rising junior majoring in political science, said the American people will ultimately deliver their verdict on Nov. 5, not “kangaroo courts.”

“The Biden regime has cheated on elections, prosecuted its political opponents and canceled its own democratic primaries,” Rossi wrote. “These cases are part of a politically motivated attempt to use the courts instead of campaigning. They hate Trump because they represent those with money, private interests and bureaucracy. President Trump is not controlled by these dark forces, but rather represents the People. He is the only one who can save America from decline, corruption and collapse.”