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In Massachusetts politics, overwhelmingly positive reaction to Trump's felony convictions

Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court during jury deliberations in his criminal hush money trial in New York, Thursday, May 30, 2024.  (Michael M. Santiago/Pool Photo via AP)
Michael M. Santiago/AP
POOL Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court during jury deliberations in his criminal hush money trial in New York, Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Pool Photo via AP)

Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts of falsifying records to conceal a sex scandal during his 2016 presidential bid was roundly cheered by Massachusetts’ Democrat-dominated political establishment Thursday.

In an interview with GBH News, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton called the case against Trump “open and shut,” adding: “If I, as a member of Congress, had paid off a porn star” — i.e., Stephanie Gregory Clifford, known as “Stormy Daniels” — “with campaign funds that I’ve raised from American taxpayers, I’d be kicked out of Congress in a heartbeat.”

Under Trump’s direction, Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to Clifford in the lead-up to the 2016 election, and Trump reimbursed that amount using funds from a personal account and the Trump Organization the following year.

But Moulton also struck a warning note, saying the trial’s outcome “truly raises the stakes for November.”

“I’m sure that Team Trump will try to capitalize off this however they can,” Moulton said. “They’ll raise a ton of money. He’ll become more violent, more decrepit as a candidate. And all of that is dangerous for our democracy.”

Rep. Jake Auchincloss voiced similar concerns in an interview with GBH News, saying Trump “has claimed that the system is rigged against him his entire career. ... He’s a grievance warrior, and he is going to turn the U.S. government into his own personal retribution engine if he gains the levers of power.”

But Auchincloss also said the verdict represents a huge political opportunity for Democrats.

“Republicans are voting down border security,” he said. “They are defending insurrectionists. They are defunding the FBI. They are pushing guns into our schools, and now they’re nominating a convicted felon for president.

”The GOP is not the party of law and order. And if Democrats seize the initiative on law and order, if we govern on it, if we win voters trust on it, we’ll win elections,“ Auchincloss said.

In a statement released shortly after the verdict was announced, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley also rejected Trump’s claims that he’s being unfairly persecuted for political reasons, instead casting the outcome as a long-overdue moment of accountability for a serial bad actor.

”From discriminating against Black tenants to defrauding small businesses, to bribery, hush money schemes, election interference, and insurrection, this man has broken the law to advance his own interests at the expense of other people and to the detriment of our democracy,“ Pressley said.

She also called Trump ”unfit“ to hold public office, and said he poses a threat to American democracy ”that cannot be overstated.“

In a statement, Democratic Whip Katherine Clark said the verdict shows that, ”regardless of wealth, fame, or position,“ no one is above the law in the United States. Clark noted that Trump is now marked by two impeachments as well as 34 felony convictions, and then looked toward November as well, saying, ”The American people deserve so much better.“

The pithiest reaction from the Mass. congressional delegation may have come from from Rep. Lori Trahan, who tweeted: ”No one is above the law.“

The response to Trump’s conviction was not unequivocally positive in the world of Massachusetts politics, however.

Mass. GOP Chair Amy Carnevale, who has attempted to bridge pro- and anti-Trump factions within her own party, released a statement calling Trump the victim of a ”political prosecution,“ and said she expects the verdict will be reversed on appeal.

”Today marks a profoundly troubling moment for the integrity of the American judicial system,“ Carnevale said. ”The Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice both investigated these allegations and chose not to bring charges against President Trump.

“It should have ended there. This case should have never been pursued by the Manhattan District Attorney driven by political ambition.”

Jim Lyons, who preceded Carnevale as Mass. GOP chair and embraced Trump during his tenure, tweeted a black-and-white graphic that reads “America is Broken.” He then tweeted another graphic that showed Trump smiling with fist raised, accompanied by the words “BREAKING NEWS POLITICAL PRISONER.” Lyons added his own gloss to that second image, writing “He’s still fighting! Let’s support him!,” followed by three American flag emojis.

How the verdict will impact support for Trump overall is an open question. But John Cluverius, a political scientist at UMass Lowell, told GBH News that, among voters who are just turning their attention to the 2024 presidential contest, the verdict is likely to be damaging for Trump.

“It’s important to remember that this is the first major-party [presidential] candidate to have to be a convicted felon ever in the history of the United States,” Cluverius said. “And for voters who aren’t paying attention, this really shapes their attitudes about someone who has always run as someone who has opposed the corruption of Washington, D.C. ... It is a lot harder to make that case when you are someone who is convicted for their actions in a political campaign.

”The more the focus of the news is about the corruption of one candidate, instead of about how people feel about the economy or the status of immigration on the border, the less it is positive for Donald Trump,“ Cluverius added.

Copyright 2024 WGBH Radio

Jeff Keating
Mary Blake