Trump and his allies were bracing for a guilty verdict. Then came the bombshell

(CNN) — The next time former President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally, it will be the first time he does so as a convicted felon.

When that will happen remains to be seen. It’s one of the countless unknowns facing an unprecedented election, made all the more extraordinary by the events of the past week.

The 34-count guilty verdict handed down by a Manhattan jury on Thursday, the first criminal conviction of a former president, dropped like a bombshell on the American political landscape. The Trump campaign had long prepared for this outcome, leading its candidate and his supporters to an unfavorable conclusion and presenting the case as a political spectacle. But now that the verdict is in, uncertainty lurks behind every verdict.

No one can say for sure how voters will react to this historic moment, or how they will weigh Trump’s condemnation against other factors, such as their opinion of President Joe Biden or issues that affect their pocketbooks or personal health, such as inflation and access to abortion.

Even if the jury’s verdict is not indecisive, it is unclear whether they will lean toward an angry candidate and a party seeking revenge.

Trump’s tendency to attack when he finds himself backed into a corner was evident this Friday in a response that signaled how he intends to proceed after the verdict.

In a freewheeling and grievance-filled 33-minute speech at Trump Tower, the former president recited his usual phrases from campaign speeches about border security and Biden’s management of the country before attacking those he believed responsible for his exposure. Trump compared the judge overseeing the case, Juan Merchan, to a “monster” and called the prosecution’s main witness, his former lawyer Michael Cohen, a “bag of garbage.”

Trump continues to claim that Biden was behind the New York hush money scandal, a claim he regularly repeats without evidence.

In concluding his remarks, the former president indicated he was ready to move on to the campaign trail after spending the last two months largely in a Manhattan courtroom.

“November 5th is the most important day in the history of the country,” Trump declared this Friday, a day after saying that the elections would deliver the “true verdict.”

However, it is unclear when Trump plans to take this message to the streets. His schedule is all but empty, with no public events announced, a calendar designed to accommodate jury deliberations that could continue indefinitely.

Instead, Trump is expected to spend the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, two sources familiar with his schedule told CNN. Next weekend

Cameras were not allowed inside the Manhattan courtroom when the verdict was read in Donald Trump's hush money trial, but cartoonists captured the scene. (Photo: Christine Cornell)

Cameras were not allowed inside the Manhattan courtroom when the verdict was read in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, but cartoonists captured the scene. (Photo: Christine Cornell)

A begins West Coast fundraising tour with stop in California

The hush-money case is also far from over and will continue to loom over the political season. Trump and his lawyer, Todd Blanch, have indicated they will appeal, a process that could last longer than the campaign itself. A gag order limiting Trump’s statements during the judicial process will also remain in effect.

Merchan has set a sentencing date for July 11, four days before Republicans gather in Milwaukee to officially nominate Trump as their nominee at their national convention. CNN reported Thursday that the former president’s legal team is undecided about whether to ask Merchan to move the date, leaving the door open for his sentencing to become a focal point of the party convention.

Take advantage of the legal drama

Trump has capitalized on his legal troubles since a New York grand jury issued the first of four indictments against the former president in March 2023. The charges effectively rallied Republican voters for Trump’s third bid for the White House and helped him overcome well-funded primary competition from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and others who thought the party might be ready to take power with a punt on the former president.

In his campaign speeches across the country over the past year, Trump has invoked his cases to unite his supporters and even reach new audiences. He has suggested that his mugshot, taken after he was sued in Georgia for trying to overturn the result of the 2020 state election, would appeal to black voters. Last weekend, Trump attempted to connect with a liberal crowd by mentioning the allegations against him.

He added, “So if I wasn’t a libertarian before, I’m pretty sure I’m a libertarian now.”

Donald Trump's secret is out

Mugshot of former President Donald Trump.

However, the campaign intends to keep messaging about his conviction in the future, and will do so with new vigor. Trump’s team immediately capitalized on Republican outrage over Thursday’s verdict. His campaign said a flurry of fundraising appeals helped bring in nearly $53 million in donations in the 24 hours after the jury announced its decision.

Across Washington, Trump’s allies, some of whom are vying to be his running mate, responded Friday with a series of escalating calls for him to retaliate.

Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, demanded that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Matthew Colangelo, a lawyer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, testify next week about “President Trump’s unprecedented policy of harassment.” Several Republican senators, including vice presidential candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and J.D. Vance of Ohio, signed a letter saying they would not work with the Biden administration to pass legislation, confirm his judicial nominees or increase spending unrelated to security.

During a Friday appearance on Fox News, Vance vowed to “fight back” with investigations of Democrats and their donors and also served subpoenas on Merchan and his daughter. The judge’s daughter, the president of a campaign consulting firm that works with Democratic candidates, had been a target of Trump’s attacks before Merchan included her in his gag order.

“We have to get to the bottom of this, and when we find wrongdoing, we have to be able to punish it,” Vance said. “I think that’s the only language these people will understand.”

The Trump campaign is already making it clear it intends to criticize Republicans it views as disloyal at this point.

When former Maryland governor and Republican Senate candidate Larry Hogan asked Americans to “respect the verdict and the legal process,” Trump campaign manager Chris LaCivita responded on social media: “Your campaign just ended.”

LaCivita also responded to the National Committee of College Republicans for posting on social media, “The outcome of this trial must be respected.”

“Opinions are like bullshit,” LaCivita wrote. “Everyone has one.”

CNN’s Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.

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