Guilty on all counts: Trump criminal conviction makes history

Trump who is bidding for a second presidential term remains unsure if he'll be spending 2025 in the Oval Office, on probation or in jail. [Kena Betancur, AFP]

Donald Trump on Thursday became the first former US president ever convicted of a crime after a New York jury found him guilty on all charges in his hush money case, months before an election that could see him yet return to the White House.

The jury found him guilty on each of the 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide a payment meant to silence porn star Stormy Daniels. He could in theory be sentenced to four years behind bars for each count but is more likely to receive probation.

The 77-year-old Republican, who was released without bail, is now a felon -- a historic and startling first in a country where presidents are frequently described as the most powerful man in the world.

Trump, however, is not barred from continuing his battle to unseat President Joe Biden in November -- even in the unlikely event he goes to prison.

His lawyer, Todd Blanche, said his team was eying an appeal "as soon as we can."

And Trump himself voiced immediate defiance.

"I'm a very innocent man," Trump told reporters, vowing that the "real verdict" would come from voters on election day. He branded the trial "rigged" and a "disgrace."

Biden's campaign issued a statement saying the trial showed "no one is above the law." It added that "the threat Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater."

Judge Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11 -- four days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where Trump is due to receive the party's formal nomination.

The 12-member jury had deliberated for more than 11 hours over two days before the foreman read out the unanimous conclusion within a matter of minutes.

Trump was convicted of falsifying business records to reimburse his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election, when her claim to have had sex with him could have proved fatal to his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

The trial featured lengthy testimony from the adult performer, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford and who described to the court in graphic detail what she says was a 2006 sexual encounter with the married Trump.

Prosecutors successfully laid out a case alleging the hush money and the illegal covering up of the payment was part of a broader crime to prevent voters from knowing about Trump's behavior.