‘Somber applause’: Stanford experts, students consider Trump’s felony conviction

Former President Donald Trump was convicted last Thursday on 34 felony counts associated with orchestrated hush money payments that occurred prior to the 2016 presidential election. 

Trump is now the first former American president to be convicted of felony crimes. A 12-person jury in New York arrived at a guilty verdict after a day and a half of deliberations following a five-week trial. Stanford professors and students spoke with The Daily on the political implications of this unprecedented event.

Trump is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11 with potential punishments ranging from fines and restitution to probation and imprisonment. Despite his felon status, there is no rule banning Trump from his ongoing bid for re-election. The U.S. Constitution stipulates only three requirements for eligibility: being a natural-born American citizen, being at least 35 years old and living in the United States for at least 14 years. 

If Trump is able to continue his presidential run from prison, he would not be the first candidate to do so. Although unsuccessful in the race, Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs ran for president from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in 1920. Debs had been given a 10-year sentence for sedition, after condemning the United States’ involvement in World War I. 

Morris P. Fiorina, professor of political science and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote in an email to The Daily that polling shows minimal change in support following the conviction. 

“Trump had a lot to gain from an acquittal or hung jury — that would have supported his claim that the trial was a political hit job — but not a lot to lose,” Fiorina wrote. 

According to Fiorina, although Trump might lose a few voters, they “might be offset by a few [undecided voters] or weak Biden voters wanting to say f— you to the New York Times and CNN.” 

Jack Rakove, professor emeritus of political science, said that “the idea that [Trump] is finally being held to account is itself a massive achievement,” with Trump being a “uniquely destructive figure in American history.” Rakove went on to maintain that for the upcoming election, his “position is to predict nothing.”  

Dylan Vergara ’26, who studies political science and has previously worked at the U.S. Congress and Department of Justice, said that many Stanford students seem to be reacting to Trump’s conviction with “somber applause.”

Although Vergara said it was “somber” for a former president to be convicted of fraud, he applauded “the system in terms of the institutions working.”

Vergara also expressed worry that this event will further disillusion young voters, potentially reducing their turnout at the polls because of two unfavorable candidates.

Cameron Krouch ’25 — who grew up in Texas, whose electorates went to Trump in 2016 and 2020 — said he purchased a copy of the New York Times to commemorate Trump’s conviction.

Krouch said he was raised in a household that emphasized the strength of the American dream and American institutions. He criticized some Republicans’ characterization of Trump’s verdict as “unfair.”

“I find it very sad — the breakdown of the sort of institutional trust that we’ve seen from Jan. 6 to the distrust in the Supreme Court, to the distrust in a jury of 12 everyday Americans who are willing to put themselves at the risk of political violence to judge the law impartially,” Krouch said.

Among the mixed reactions was a through line of the event’s unprecedented nature.

“Either way you cut it, it’s a historical moment,” Krouch said.

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