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What to expect as Trump's defense team eyes an appeals strategy

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One other thing that could come next? An appeal. Attorney Andrew Weissman is here with us to talk about that. He's the co-author of the book, "The Trump Indictments." He was also a lead prosecutor in the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ANDREW WEISSMAN: Nice to be here.

SHAPIRO: Well, let's dive right into what's next for former President Trump. He addressed reporters this morning and said his legal team will appeal the verdict. What does the appeals process entail?

WEISSMAN: Sure. Well, you know, first, everyone needs to understand, as much as Donald Trump has denigrated the criminal justice system, he had a fair trial. He had a jury, a judge, eminent defense counsel and, at this point, he will have a sentencing happening on July 11. And at that point, he is entitled to appeal. He can't appeal now.

SHAPIRO: OK.

WEISSMAN: He has to first get sentenced. And that takes - the sentencing is going to be quick. But the actual appeal process can take many, many months. For instance, in the civil fraud case, where he was unsuccessful, that was an expedited appeal, and that's not being heard until September. So that gives you some data point on which to see that the appeals process is - takes a while. But in part of that, he will have an opportunity to submit any and all errors that he thinks occurred in his trial, whether factual or legal.

SHAPIRO: Can you talk us through what some of the possible avenues of appeal might be? What are some of the issues that his team might raise?

WEISSMAN: He could raise an issue with respect to what's called the bump-up - or, in other words, what made this a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. There were various theories that the state put forward and were submitted to the jury - and obviously, with permission of the trial court that ruled in favor of the DA. But those could be raised on appeal to say that not all of them - or any of them, maybe - were valid. For instance, one was a federal election crime. In other words, if he had false business records with the intent to cover up or promote a federal election crime, that was one of the theories that the jury was allowed to decide on.

This - another theory was a state election crime. A third theory was state tax crime. And so Donald Trump can say, you know, any or all of those are impermissible factors. Other than that, I think that this is a very clean trial. The judge ruled in favor of Donald Trump on a number of issues. He obviously ruled in favor of the state on various issues. But I think, in terms of the evidence and the way in which the trial occurred, I don't see a lot of appellate issues. But that's what the appellate courts are for - is that a defense lawyer will make his or her best arguments. But as I said, I think the legal one may be the strongest.

SHAPIRO: And just in case people are confused about this, because the case is not in federal court, we're not talking about an appeals process that would ultimately lead up to the Supreme Court. This is an entirely different channel.

WEISSMAN: That is absolutely right. This is entirely within a separate sovereign, which is the state system - in this case, New York State. So the Supreme Court of the United States should not be getting involved. And many people might wonder, gee, if the Supreme Court were to say there's immunity for a current or former president, that also should have no effect on this case because, I think, by all accounts, everything that was charged here and is alleged and has now been found by the jury unanimously was all about conduct that is personal in nature - that was not conduct that was undertaken by Donald Trump when he was president in his capacity as president.

SHAPIRO: So the sentence could range from probation to four years per offense, up to 20 years maximum. What do you think the judge is likely to impose?

WEISSMAN: I don't know. But I do think that you will hear from the state that they will raise factors that go to things that judges consider, such as the risk of recidivism and the lack of remorse. And in that regard, it will be relevant that Donald Trump has violated a gag order 10 times and has been found to have done so, that he threatened witnesses, jurors, judges and family members of judges and prosecutors.

His history with respect to having been found to have committed fraud civilly, his history with respect to the tax offense that this judge actually oversaw, which was a conviction of two Trump entities two years ago - all of that can be factored in. So I think all of those will be things that I suspect that we will hear from the state as to why it would be a condign sentence to have some form of jail imposed here.

SHAPIRO: That's attorney and NYU law professor Andrew Weissman. Thanks, as always.

WEISSMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kathryn Fink
Kathryn Fink is a producer with NPR's All Things Considered.
Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.