VANDALIA, OHIO - NOVEMBER 07: Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate JD Vance greet supporters during the rally at the Dayton International Airport on November 7, 2022 in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump campaigned at the rally for Ohio Republican candidates including Republican candidate for U.S. Senate JD Vance, who is running in a tight race against Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

BY  Ohio Capital Journal

A Manhattan jury made history Thursday when it convicted Donald Trump of 34 felonies. They relate to how he paid a porn star to stay quiet just before the 2016 election — and his actions cast doubt on Trump’s legitimacy during his one term as president.

Despite now being a felon, Trump is for the third time the GOP nominee. Most of Ohio’s Republican leaders reacted with outrage to his conviction, while the governor didn’t have much to say, and the one statewide Democrat said the jury had spoken.

Sen. J.D. Vance is on the shortlist to be Trump’s vice presidential pick and he took to the airwaves to call Trump’s prosecution political, and to say a lot of other stuff as well. On X Thursday, Vance falsely accused the Democratic Party of inventing a crime just to prosecute Trump and he made reference to a conspiracy theory with anti-semitic overtones.

“This decision is a disgrace to the rule of law and our Constitution,” Vance wrote. “Dems invented a felony to ‘get Trump,’ with the help of a Soros funded prosecutor and a Biden donor Judge, who rigged the entire case to get this outcome. This isn’t justice, it’s election interference.”

Actually, as the jury found, it was Trump who committed election interference. And legal experts pointed out that Trump’s lawyers helped pick the jury, put on witnesses and had input in the jury’s instructions. Trump himself could have taken the witness stand, but chose not to.

Speaking from the White House Friday, President Joe Biden criticized Trump supporters for claiming that the justice system was rigged against Trump without providing any concrete evidence.

“It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” Biden said.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a likely contender for the GOP nomination to be governor in 2026, also slammed the proceedings that ended in Trump’s conviction.

“This verdict is likely to be overturned. It is not the first unjust verdict, and it is why we have courts of appeals,” he said on X. “The aptly named (Manhattan District Attorney) Alvin Bragg picked his defendant and campaigned on prosecuting him — disreputable and unethical conduct that tarnished the justice system.”

When it comes to courts of appeal, Yost has had his own difficulties. A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that Yost was improperly blocking signature gathering for a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would reduce immunities the state has have from being sued. Yost on Thursday said he’d seek a ruling from the entire court.

Some of the AG’s critics have accused him of stalling.

He refused to approve a summary of the ballot language, which supporters need if they’re to gather 420,000 verified signatures from registered voters in time for the measure to make the November ballot. Yost is refusing to answer questions about a similar maneuver in 2019 that helped kill a voter-initiated repeal of a law at the center of the biggest bribery scandal in Ohio history.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is likely to vie with Yost for the gubernatorial nomination. Like many other Ohio Republicans, he, too, said he was outraged over Trump’s conviction for having an extramarital tryst with a porn star, paying to silence her in order to improperly influence an election and then falsifying business records to cover it all up.

“This quote from President Trump is ultimately the truth of the matter: ‘The real verdict is gonna be Nov. 5, by the people,’” Husted said on X. He then reposted that while saying further, “If you are mad about it, do something about it by donating, volunteering and voting.”

Ever merciless, some commenters reminded the lieutenant governor that he was roundly booed at a 2020 Trump rally in Vandalia as he encouraged attendees to wear masks at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump played a lead role in politicizing mask wearing and downplaying a scourge that has killed nearly 1.2 million Americans.

Ohio’s top elections official also rushed onto social media to defend a newly minted felon who tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election and thereby steal the votes of 81 million Americans.

“Partisan prosecutor,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose said on X. “Activist judge. Sham trial. Bogus verdict. It’s a sad day in America when a political party is so afraid of losing its grip on power that they’re willing to abuse justice to game an election. This will not stand.”

LaRose is a key player in Ohio’s epic gerrymanderingquestionable voter purges and restriction of voting access, so it’s interesting that he’d accuse others of desperately clinging to power.

One wag also pointed out that a jury had just found that Trump falsified numerous business records to further his conspiracy and that as Secretary of State, LaRose is in charge of Ohio’s business records. It’s unclear what — if anything — LaRose would have done if the former president faked them here in the Buckeye State.

Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno, who is challenging Democrat Sherrod Brown for Ohio’s other Senate seat, was also vociferous in his support of the only ex-president to also bear the title “felon.”

“Today is a dark day for American democracy,” Moreno said on X. “Joe Biden and his leftwing allies engaged in election interference to prosecute their top political opponent on bogus charges. This verdict is representative of a banana republic, not a democracy. Sherrod Brown and DC Democrats should be ashamed of this weaponization of our justice system.”

His statement ignores the fact that the Biden Justice Department declined to prosecute Trump on the charges of which the New York jurors found him guilty. It also ignores the fact that the Biden Justice Department is prosecuting the president’s own son and a sitting Democratic senator.

Brown, his Democratic opponent, is facing a hard reelection in a Republican-leaning state. When asked to comment on Trump’s conviction Friday, Sen. Brown stuck to general principals.

“I’m not a lawyer or a judge but I’ve said from the beginning that no one is above the law,” he said in an email. “Ultimately this is up to the legal system to sort out and for the American people to decide in November.”

Gov. Mike DeWine’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He’s a Republican who got on Trump’s bad side early in the pandemic, when DeWine implemented health orders that were recommended by experts.

Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He’s won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.


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