posner31_Spencer PlattGetty Images_trumptrial Spencer Platt/Getty Images

What to Look for in Trump’s First Trial

The intricate legal issues and colorful characters in Donald Trump's criminal trials will undoubtedly keep the media and the viewing public enraptured for months to come. But when it comes to the 2024 election, all that really matters is how the defendant appears to a narrow sliver of undecided voters.

CHICAGO – As the first criminal case against Donald Trump gets underway in New York City, the media have forgone their customary practice of declaring the “trial of the century.” Trial of the month is more like it, since three more are set to follow. The sheer number of criminal trials involving different allegations – hush money payments, retention of confidential documents, and election interference – would seem to guarantee a conviction and Trump’s final ejection from public life.

A conviction is indeed possible, even likely. But neither a conviction nor even jail time would disqualify Trump from running for the presidency. The important question is what impact a conviction might have on voters’ choices on election day. Given that most people have already made up their minds about Trump, we are talking about a small, obscure group of undecided voters in a handful of swing states. And given that most of these people seem to have little interest in, or knowledge of, politics, they likely know very little about the accusations against Trump. The media deluge from the trials may finally end their ignorance.

The trial in New York is about business records, not insurrections or national security. The indictment accuses Trump of violating a New York statute under which a person who, with fraudulent intent, “makes or causes a false entry in the business records of an enterprise” is guilty of a felony if he intended to conceal or commit another crime.