On May 30, former President Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records after a New York jury deliberated for two days. As the first U.S. president, former or sitting, to become a felon, Trump’s conviction is historic not only for the “firsts” of American history but also for its disturbing glance into the American cultural and political zeitgeist.

After a grand jury indictment last year, Trump’s legal battle has been measured and methodical. From his 2019 and 2021 impeachment proceedings to this hush-money case, long-standing legal procedures — including jury selection and evidence admission rules — have been working in pursuit of the truth.

Trump’s vocal supporters in his party, including Greater Binghamton Rep. Marc Molinaro, do not believe this to be the case.

Within an hour of Trump’s conviction going public, Molinaro posted a cryptic statement on X condemning the verdict, though not mentioning Trump by name, writing “This is how we’re going to do politics now? Not through spirited debates, but by weaponizing the justice and court system to attack a political rival right before the election.”

Here is a question, congressman — who is “we?” Who has meticulously worked behind the scenes to convict Trump of these charges?

By choosing to simultaneously place faith in and divorce the rule of law, resulting in a misguided statement that illustrates this significant and chaotic moment in history — one at which we are on the brink of deep distrust in political leadership — Molinaro substantially disregards judicial processes, such as trial by jury, at best and at worst, our right to fulfill this civic obligation.

This supposed conspiracy to silence democratic debate is a jury selected by prosecutors and the defense team. The very same jury that Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche picked through as if it were an art, sifting through prospective jurors’ social media and questioning their impartiality and that the defense thought could be hung with a possible Republican voter on board.

Molinaro also wrote that “The leading contender for the presidency doesn’t belong behind bars. It’s disgraceful, unprecedented, and bad for democracy.” To be clear, what Molinaro calls a “perversion of our justice system” is the jury rendering a verdict so close to an election when Trump’s image matters most for his party.

Juries are by no means perfect, but they are a line of defense against corruption, profuse power and a justice system that can be biased. Trump, by calling the trial “rigged,” is surely rejecting this system only because it does not suit his narrative, and Molinaro, calling democratic participation “weaponization,” is a sore loser. The rule of law cannot be wrong when it works against your favor and right when it does.

Other Republicans in power, such as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, criticized the verdict, claiming political bias in the district attorney’s office. House Speaker Mike Johnson employed similar rhetoric on X, writing “The weaponization of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden Administration … President Trump will rightfully appeal this absurd verdict — and he WILL WIN!”

What is ironic about Johnson’s statement is that by casting the verdict as illegitimate, he encourages the weaponization of our judicial system in retaliation, though only if waged by Trump and his acolytes. It is eerie because Trump has said he would employ such measures — planning to fire federal prosecutors who refuse to prosecute his enemies and weighing pardons for his supporters involved in the Capitol riot.

Similar to Republicans before them, Molinaro and Johnson actively stoke distrust in the judicial system, a strategy historically central to the Republican ethos. But, like their contemporary peers, they are also ready to defend the system only if it decides in favor of the GOP, or Trump, fearful of committing to a solid stance. After such a flustered statement, we are unsure if Molinaro himself knows where he stands on the rule of law.

Molinaro has become a key player to House Republicans as the GOP desperately tries to hold onto swing districts like his. Despite what he may think, he does not need to be fecklessly pro-Trump to be “Republican” in image, especially when the party, ideologically-fragmented, is not a MAGA monolith.

Though Molinaro has said he did not vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and Collins voted to convict him during his 2021 impeachment trial, Trump’s planned retribution against those who have wronged him and most Republicans’ fear of being ostracized has resulted in newfound alliances. It is clear Molinaro has fallen victim to the GOP’s ideological disarray, only ensuring further chaos and misplaced frustrations.

It is one thing to condemn the verdict as a Trump supporter and another to disagree with the policies of a Democratic-controlled government. To cast doubt on democratic processes like trial by jury is a dangerous conflation of these two identities.

As we watch events unfold in the following days, weeks and months, we can only hope that Molinaro shows more concern for the rule of law and democratic principles rather than how another GOP mugshot may appeal to voters.

At a time when Americans’ distrust of our institutions, like the courts and elections officials, is at a high, our elected representatives need to be the adults in the room, not actively sowing chaos and discord.

The staff editorial solely represents the majority view of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings.