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Politics

Politics chat: How voters are responding to Trump's felony conviction

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Thirty-four felony counts, and a jury unanimously found former President Donald Trump guilty of all of them. He had a lot to say about it and spoke for over 30 minutes on Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: This is a scam. This is a rigged trial. It shouldn't have been in that venue. We shouldn't have had that judge.

RASCOE: Responding to the verdict, President Biden said that Donald Trump was treated just like every other citizen and that he has the right to an appeal. He also defended the justice system.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Our justice system has endured for nearly 250 years, and it literally is the cornerstone of America - our justice system. The justice system should be respected, and we should never allow anyone to tear it down.

RASCOE: We're joined now by NPR senior national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: OK, we have just about five months between now and the elections in November. Oh, my goodness. But right now, it seems all everyone is talking about is this verdict and what it means. Is that a loss for Trump and a win for Democrats?

LIASSON: Well, it certainly wasn't a good day for Donald Trump. Who wins the politics of this is still unclear, but the loser is certainly United States democracy. Trump has stressed the system to the breaking point. If you don't prosecute him for this case or for mishandling classified documents or trying to overturn the 2020 election, well, then he's above the law. If you do prosecute him, he'll try to destroy Americans' faith in the justice system.

We do know that there are now three litmus tests for Republicans in the Trump-led GOP. The first one is the 2020 election was rigged. They don't accept that result. Second one is they won't accept the 2024 election results unless Trump wins - and the rule of law does not apply to Donald Trump. In other words, any judgment against him is illegitimate. And - although we can assume with some certainty that if he was acquitted or if there was a hung jury, he certainly would have said that the rule of law prevailed.

RASCOE: And so back in 2016, then-candidate Trump said that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and he wouldn't lose any voters. Do you think that's still true?

LIASSON: Well, that may be true over time, but according to a jury of his peers, he can't get away with a far lesser crime. And what we don't know yet is whether this verdict will make it easier for the Biden campaign to make this a choice election, not a referendum on the incumbent, which is what it's been so far. You know, Biden always says, compare me to the alternative, not to the almighty. And for voters who see their choice as being someone they think is too old versus someone they think is too dangerous, this might make it easier for the Biden campaign to make that dangerous choice a little more scary.

RASCOE: OK, but what about the voters here who are trying to figure out what to make of this kind of unprecedented situation we find ourselves in?

LIASSON: Well, one thing that both campaigns agree on - they've both said that whether or not Donald Trump is going to be the next president or not is up to the voters, not juries and judges. We do have some polling since the verdict. According to the new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, two-thirds of voters said the guilty verdict wouldn't affect their vote at all. But roughly 17% said it would make them less likely to vote for Trump. In a tight election, little changes make a big difference.

We have a poll from Routers Ipsos. Twenty-five percent of independent voters said the guilty verdict would make them less likely to vote for Trump. One in 10 Republicans in that poll said they were now less likely to vote for Trump, too. And we have a Morning Consult poll that shows 49% of independent voters thought Trump should end his campaign.

So I think we have to pay attention to a couple - two different kinds of voters. One, moderate Republicans - they've had qualms about Donald Trump. Pay attention to the next bunch of Republican primaries in states like Montana and New Jersey. How many people still vote for Nikki Haley, even though she's not on the ballot? Does she get more than the 20% she's been getting? That would be a sign of continued Republican resistance to Trump.

And also pay attention to those young, tuned-out voters, nonwhite voters, who have soured on Joe Biden. Does this conviction finally penetrate? Do they start paying attention? And maybe, the Biden campaign hopes, do they remember all the things that they didn't like about Donald Trump?

RASCOE: That's NPR senior national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you, Mara.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Politics
Ayesha Rascoe
Ayesha Rascoe is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and the weekend host of Up First. As host of the morning news magazine show, she interviews newsmakers, entertainers, politicians and more about the stories that everyone is talking about or that everyone should be talking about.
Mara Liasson
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.