Sentencing set for 11 July as Trump says verdict 'a disgrace'

Donald Trump has been found guilty of falsifying business records, becoming the first former US president to be convicted of a crime as he bids to return to the White House.

A panel of 12 jurors returned the historic verdict in New York on Thursday, finding him guilty on all 34 counts.

The court heard from more than 20 witnesses over six weeks, including Stormy Daniels, whose alleged sexual encounter with the former president was at the centre of the case.

Trump, 77, was accused of concealing a payment to buy the former adult-film star’s silence in the final days of his 2016 election campaign.

He will be sentenced on 11 July - just days before the Republican National Convention, when he will be confirmed as the party's White House candidate.

While he could in theory face prison, a financial penalty is seen as the more likely punishment following Thursday's unanimous verdict.

The former president pursed his lips as the jurors confirmed the guilty counts, turning his head to look at them.

Amid a massive police presence outside court afterwards, Trump said: "This was a disgrace, this was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt."

He vowed to "keep fighting until the end". As he spoke, hundreds of spectators gathered outside the court, with a helicopter circling overhead.

"This is long from over," he said, before walking away from reporters without answering questions.

He will almost certainly appeal, which does not prevent him from running for president against Democrat incumbent Joe Biden in November’s election.

If he were to defeat Mr Biden and return to the presidency, he would become the first convicted criminal to occupy the White House.

Several of Trump's political allies offered statements in his defence after the verdict.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said it was a "shameful day in American history" and symbolic of the "weaponisation" of the justice system to "silence dissent".

But the Biden-Harris campaign said the verdict showed "no one is above the law".

"There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box," campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said. "Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president."

During the trial, the prosecution set out to prove that Trump falsified records when he repaid his former fixer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 hush-money payment to Ms Daniels. They said he recorded the reimbursements as legal expenses in order to circumvent campaign finance laws.

Todd Blanche, Trump's lead lawyer, told Justice Juan Merchan that there was "no reason that the court should allow the verdict", arguing that Cohen committed perjury by lying on the stand.

The Trump team's motion to acquit, however, was denied by Justice Merchan.

"This was a planned, co-ordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors at the start of the trial.

Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, sought to distance their client from the reimbursement plan. They denied he had tried to influence the election and said Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness, was a serial liar.

Trump was required to sit in the Manhattan court for the duration of the trial, which kept him largely off the campaign trail. But he launched near-daily attacks on Mr Biden, arguing that the case brought by New York’s attorney general was politically motivated.

The former president faces three other criminal cases, including over election interference and the 6 January 2021 US Capitol riot, but it looks unlikely that the other trials will begin before Americans go to the polls on 5 November.

BBC News reporters are in the Manhattan courtroom covering the historic first criminal trial of a former US president. You'll find their updates and analysis on the BBC news website and app, and across TV, radio and podcasts.