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Montana’s federal delegation reacts to Trump guilty verdict

Republican congressmen attacked the judge, jury and prosecutor, calling the trial’s outcome a ‘sham’
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Posted at 8:22 AM, May 31, 2024

Montana’s mostly Republican federal delegation delivered strong reactions on Thursday to a New York jury’s finding that former Republican president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump is guilty of all 34 federal criminal charges against him related to hush-money payments and falsification of records in 2016.

The news marks a historic moment for American democracy, with Trump becoming the first former president to become a convicted felon. The charges, related to Trump’s cover-up of a sex scandal with adult film star Stormy Daniels, are the lowest class of felony under New York state law. Trump was released on his own recognizance until his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 11.

Echoing Trump’s rhetorical posture after the decision was handed down Thursday, Montana’s Republican federal officeholders condemned the case’s outcome in statements released by congressional offices and re-election campaigns, reports the Montana Free Press.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines called the jury’s outcome “a sham” orchestrated by Democrats that should be overturned on appeal. He went on to criticize the judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan, for donating $15 to President Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaign.

“This guilty verdict is what happens when you have a biased prosecutor, judge, and jury! The system is broken,” eastern district Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale said in an emailed statement. He accused Merchan of “election interference” by scheduling Trump’s sentencing date shortly before the Republican convention, scheduled July 15-18 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The congressional press office of western district Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the verdict. On X, formerly known as Twitter, Zinke posted a reaction from the campaign account associated with his 2024 re-election bid, calling the outcome “an absolute stain on the American justice system” and pledging continued support for the former president.

“I STAND WITH TRUMP and stand with the American people who see through this garbage,” Zinke said, followed by an American flag emoji.

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Ryan Zinke, right, speaks with a reporter at a Missoula fundraiser hosted by the Montana Association of Conservatives on April 28, 2024.

A spokesperson for Daines confirmed that the senator will continue to support the former president throughout the 2024 campaign despite his status as a convicted felon.

The Republican reactions mirrored the tone and content of many national GOP figures.

RELATED: MSU Billings professor analyzes potential effects of Trump trial

Sen. Jon Tester, Montana’s lone Democrat in statewide or federal office, gave a more muted statement Thursday, avoiding any direct response to the jury’s finding or Trump’s guilt.

“Senator Tester respects the judicial process and believes everyone should be treated fairly before the courts, and voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard at the ballot box in November,” a spokesperson for Tester’s office said in an emailed statement. The spokesperson did not respond to an additional question about whether Tester considered the New York trial — which has played out over the course of several weeks — “fair.”

Trump’s conviction could result in up to four years of prison time or, alternatively, probation, though any outcome is likely to be significantly delayed by legal appeals.

While convicted felons are not legally prohibited from running for the U.S. presidency, some national polls have indicated that the label could result in a dip in support among voters.

Any enforcement of the judge’s sentence could be stayed pending potential appeals. Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor whose office brought the charges against Trump, declined on Thursday to speak extensively about additional motions or arguments his office intends to make in the coming weeks regarding sentencing.

“This is an active, ongoing matter,” Bragg said during an evening press conference. “Today we have the most important voice of all. And that is the voice of the jurors.”