GOP warns Judge Merchan against imprisoning Trump ahead of the election

 June 5, 2024

On July 11, just four days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, former President Donald Trump will be in a Manhattan courtroom for a sentencing hearing following his guilty verdict last week in the New York "hush money" trial.

Several congressional Republicans are now urgently warning presiding Judge Juan Merchan to refrain from immediately imprisoning Trump or imposing any sort of sentence at that hearing that would negatively impact the presumptive GOP nominee's ability to campaign for the presidency, The Hill reported.

Though seemingly unlikely for a variety of reasons, a prison sentence for Trump is not entirely out of the realm of possibility, hence the words of caution from the elected officials for the judge to not make any sentencing decisions that might be perceived as interfering in the election.

Broad range of possible sentences

CBS News reported that former President Trump faces the unlikely prospect of receiving a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each of the 34 counts of felony falsification of business records the jury found him guilty of, which could conceivably result in a 136-year sentence behind bars if Judge Merchan ordered the sentences to be served consecutively instead of concurrently.

Much more likely, however, is that Trump would only be sentenced to serve a few months or even just a few weeks in jail, perhaps even only on weekends, if he is to be incarcerated at all.

Another possible option for Merchan could be to sentence Trump to a period of home confinement enforced by an electronic ankle monitor at one of the several properties he owns, not to mention the prospect of simply being fined and placed on probation or ordered to perform a certain number of hours of community service.

Republicans warn against sentences that would limit Trump's movement

Any sort of sentence that includes time behind bars or even home confinement that would constrain Trump's ability to campaign around the country as the GOP nominee would be too much for some elected Republicans, according to The Hill.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said any such constraints on Trump's movement would be another politicized "abuse of power," and he noted, "I’m very troubled by what I see in the way the courts have been weaponized. It used to be there were some institutions in America, namely the FBI, the Department of Justice and the courts, which were regarded as out of bounds for overt partisan politics, but unfortunately that’s changed, and not for the better."

Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) said any form of incarceration would be a "foolish" move by Merchan that "would only strengthen the resolve of the Americans to support President Trump," and added, "But when you see the conviction and the rules that he instructed the jury with, it’s completely unfair, it’s unconstitutional, and I would put nothing past him at this point."

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), also a Judiciary Committee member, suggested Merchan would need to justify any limiting constraints on Trump's movement by showing similar sentences for others who were convicted of the same or similar crimes. Notably, according to The Hill, a study conducted by anti-Trump legal expert Norm Eisen found that only around 10% of thousands of similar cases in New York resulted in any amount of jail time.

Some Republicans are demanding partisan retribution against Democrats

Meanwhile, as those and other elected Republicans were warning the judge to refrain from imprisoning former President Trump, the Associated Press reported that other elected Republicans and prominent figures on the right are loudly demanding retribution against Democrats for what they view as a politically motivated persecution against a top presidential contender.

That includes calls for "Red State AGs and DAs to get busy" and even creative -- as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg did with the charges against Trump -- to "indict the left" and "fight fire with fire" by prosecuting prominent Democratic figures.

The vengeful attitude was summarized in many ways by conservative podcaster Megyn Kelly, who said on the day of Trump's guilty verdict, "What just happened today is a line we can’t uncross," and added that "Democrats will rue the day they decided to use ‘lawfare’ to stop a presidential candidate. I’m not talking about violence. I’m talking about tit-for-tat."

Trump himself even seemed to suggest recently that, if re-elected, he might resurrect his prior push for the prosecution of his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton, who he famously threatened to imprison during that campaign but then declined to do so as president in a spirit of comity that was rejected by Democrats and obviously no longer exists.

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