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BREAKING! Donald Trump becomes first US president convicted of a crime

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Former President Donald Trump appears in Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in New York. Seth Wenig/Pool via REUTERS

Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime on Thursday when a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

After two days of deliberation, the 12-member jury pronounced Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts he faced.

Trump watched the jurors dispassionately as they were polled to confirm the unanimous verdict.

Justice Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican Party is scheduled to formally nominate Trump for president ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

The crime of falsifying business documents carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, though those convicted often receive shorter sentences, fines or probation. Incarceration would not legally prevent him from campaigning, or taking office if he were to win.

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He will not be jailed ahead of sentencing.

The verdict plunges the United States into unexplored territory ahead of the November vote, when Trump will try to win back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden.

Trump, 77, has denied wrongdoing and an attorney representing him said they would appeal as quickly as possible.

“This was a disgrace,” Trump told reporters afterwards as he proclaimed his innocence and repeated his complaints that the trial had been rigged against him.

“The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people,” he said.

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Trump gave a thumbs-up sign through the tinted window of his SUV as his motorcade left the courthouse. Trump supporters stood in a park opposite the courthouse along with journalists, police and onlookers.

Opinion polls show Trump and Biden, 81, locked in a tight race, and Reuters/Ipsos polling has found that a guilty verdict could cost Trump some support among independent and Republican voters.

The case had been widely regarded as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. But the verdict looms large now as it is likely to be the only one before the election with the others delayed by procedural challenges.

The jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business documents after sitting through a five-week courtroom presentation that featured explicit testimony from porn star Stormy Daniels about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006 while he was married to his current wife Melania. Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen testified that Trump approved a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when Trump faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

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Cohen testified that he handled the payment, and that Trump approved a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal work.

Trump’s lawyers hammered Cohen’s credibility, highlighting his criminal record and imprisonment and his history of lying. Merchan also cautioned jurors to examine his testimony carefully.

The relatively short amount of time jurors needed to reach a verdict was a sign that they thought there was enough evidence to back up Cohen’s testimony, said George Grasso, a retired New York judge who attended the trial.

A source familiar with the Trump campaign’s inner workings said the verdict was expected to prompt him to intensify deliberations on picking a woman as his vice presidential running mate. His campaign website labeled him a “political prisoner” and urged supporters to donate.

BIDEN CAMPAIGN: NO ONE ABOVE THE LAW

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Biden’s campaign said the verdict showed that no one was above the law and urged voters to reject Trump in the election.

“There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box,” the campaign said in a statement.

The White House declined to comment.

Trump’s fellow Republicans quickly condemned the verdict. “Today is a shameful day in American history,” House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The jury notified the court they had reached a verdict at 4:20 p.m. (2020 GMT) and the foreperson read out all 34 guilty counts shortly after 5 p.m.

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Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Merchan to throw out the guilty verdict, arguing that it was based on the unreliable testimony of Cohen. Merchan denied his request.

A Trump appeal is likely to focus on porn star Daniels’ salacious testimony about their alleged sexual encounter as well as the novel legal theory prosecutors used in the case, but he faces long odds, legal experts said.

“We are going to appeal as quickly as we can. We will seek expedited review of this case,” Trump attorney Will Scharf told Fox News.

As a standalone crime, falsifying business documents is normally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office elevated it to a felony on grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution.

They had the burden of proving Trump guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard under U.S. law.

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“We did our job. (There are) many voices out there. The only voice that matters is the voice of the jury, and the jury has spoken,” Bragg said.

Jurors heard testimony of sex and lies that have been public since 2018, although the charges themselves rested on ledger accounts and other records of Cohen’s reimbursement.

It was known as the “zombie case” because Bragg brought it back to life after his predecessor opted not to bring charges.

If elected, Trump could shut down the two federal cases that accuse him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss and mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021. He would not have the power to stop a separate election-subversion case taking place in Georgia.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the cases, and has portrayed his various legal troubles as an effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to hurt him politically.

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-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Obama issues statement on Biden’s announcement

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Following the withdrawal of Joe Biden from the US Presidential Race later this year, his predecessor, Barack Obama has issued the following statement;

“Joe Biden has been one of America’s most consequential presidents, as well as a dear friend and partner to me. Today, we’ve also been reminded — again — that he’s a patriot of the highest order.

“Sixteen years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I knew about Joe’s remarkable career in public service. But what I came to admire even more was his character — his deep empathy and hard-earned resilience; his fundamental decency and belief that everyone counts.

“Since taking office, President Biden has displayed that character again and again. He helped end the pandemic, created millions of jobs, lowered the cost of prescription drugs, passed the first major piece of gun safety legislation in 30 years, made the biggest investment to address climate change in history, and fought to ensure the rights of working people to organize for fair wages and benefits. Internationally, he restored America’s standing in the world, revitalized NATO, and mobilized the world to stand up against Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“More than that, President Biden pointed us away from the four years of chaos, falsehood, and division that had characterized Donald Trump’s administration. Through his policies and his example, Joe has reminded us of who we are at our best — a country committed to old-fashioned values like trust and honesty, kindness and hard work; a country that believes in democracy, rule of law, and accountability; a country that insists that everyone, no matter who they are, has a voice and deserves a chance at a better life.

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“This outstanding track record gave President Biden every right to run for re-election and finish the job he started. Joe understands better than anyone the stakes in this election — how everything he has fought for throughout his life, and everything that the Democratic Party stands for, will be at risk if we allow Donald Trump back in the White House and give Republicans control of Congress.

“I also know Joe has never backed down from a fight. For him to look at the political landscape and decide that he should pass the torch to a new nominee is surely one of the toughest in his life. But I know he wouldn’t make this decision unless he believed it was right for America. It’s a testament to Joe Biden’s love of country — and a historic example of a genuine public servant once again putting the interests of the American people ahead of his own that future generations of leaders will do well to follow.

“We will be navigating uncharted waters in the days ahead. But I have extraordinary confidence that the leaders of our party will be able to create a process from which an outstanding nominee emerges. I believe that Joe Biden’s vision of a generous, prosperous, and united America that provides opportunity for everyone will be on full display at the Democratic Convention in August. And I expect that every single one of us are prepared to carry that message of hope and progress forward into November and beyond.

“For now, Michelle and I just want to express our love and gratitude to Joe and Jill for leading us so ably and courageously during these perilous times — and for their commitment to the ideals of freedom and equality that this country was founded on.”

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BREAKING! Biden drops out of US Presidential Race

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U.S. President Joe Biden ended his reelection campaign on Sunday after fellow Democrats lost faith in his mental acuity and ability to beat Donald Trump while endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him as the party’s candidate.

Biden, 81, in a post on X, said he will remain in his role as president and commander-in-chief until his term ends in January 2025 and will address the nation this week.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President. And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term,” Biden wrote.

His initial statement had not included an endorsement of Harris, but he followed up a few minutes later with an expression of support.

Harris, 59, would become the first Black woman to do run at the top of a major-party ticket in the country’s history.

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Former President Trump, the Republican candidate in the Nov. 5 election, told CNN on Sunday that he believed Harris would be easier to defeat.

Biden had a change of heart, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The president told allies that as of Saturday night he planned to stay in the race before changing his mind on Sunday afternoon.

“Last night the message was proceed with everything, full speed ahead,” a source familiar with the matter told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “At around 1:45 p.m. today: the president told his senior team that he had changed his mind.”

He announced his decision on social media within minutes.

It was unclear whether other senior Democrats would challenge Harris for the party’s nomination – she was widely seen as the pick for many party officials – or whether the party itself would choose to open the field for nominations.

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Biden’s announcement follows a wave of public and private pressure from Democratic lawmakers and party officials to quit the race after his shockingly poor performance in a June 27 televised debate last month against Republican rival Trump, 78.

Biden’s failure at times to complete clear sentences took the public spotlight away from Trump’s performance, in which he made a string of false statements, and trained it instead on questions surrounding Biden’s fitness for another 4-year term.

Days later he raised fresh concerns in an interview, shrugging off Democrats’ worries and a widening gap in opinion polls, and saying he would be fine losing to Trump if he knew he’d “gave it my all.”

His gaffes at a NATO summit – invoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s name when he meant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and calling Harris “Vice President Trump” -further stoked anxieties.

Only four days before Sunday’s announcement, Biden was diagnosed with COVID-19 for a third time, forcing him to cut short a campaign trip to Las Vegas. More than one in 10 congressional Democrats had called publicly for him to quit the race.

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Biden’s historic move – the first sitting president to give up his party’s nomination for reelection since President Lyndon Johnson in March 1968 – leaves his replacement with less than four months to wage a campaign.

If Harris emerges as the nominee, the move would represent an unprecedented gamble by the Democratic Party: its first Black and Asian American woman to run for the White House in a country that has elected one Black president and never a woman president in more than two centuries of democracy.

Biden was the oldest U.S. president ever elected when he beat Trump in 2020. During that campaign, Biden described himself as a bridge to the next generation of Democratic leaders. Some interpreted that to mean he would serve one term, a transitional figure who beat Trump and brought his party back to power.

But he set his sights on a second term in the belief that he was the only Democrat who could beat Trump again amid questions about Harris’s experience and popularity. In recent times, though, his advanced age began to show through more. His gait became stilted and his childhood stutter occasionally returned.

His team had hoped a strong performance at the June 27 debate would ease concerns over his age. It did the opposite: a Reuters/Ipsos poll after the debate showed that about 40% of Democrats thought he should quit the race.

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Donors began to revolt and supporters of Harris began to coalesce around her. Top Democrats, including former House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime ally, told Biden he cannot win the election.

Biden initially resisted pressure to step aside. He held damage-control calls and meetings with lawmakers and state governors, and sat for rare television interviews. But it was not enough. Polls showed Trump’s lead in key battleground states widening, and Democrats began to fear a wipeout in the House and Senate. On July 17, California’s Rep. Adam Schiff called on him to exit the race.

Biden’s departure sets up a stark new contrast, between the Democrats’ presumptive new nominee, Harris, a former prosecutor, and Trump who is two decades her senior and faces two outstanding criminal prosecutions related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election result. He is due to be sentenced in New York in September on a conviction for trying to cover up a hush-money payment to a porn star.

BIDEN STRUGGLED BEFORE DEBATE

Earlier this year, facing little opposition, Biden easily won the Democratic Party’s primary race to pick its presidential candidate, despite voter concerns about his age.

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However, his staunch support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza eroded support among some in his own party, particularly young, progressive Democrats and voters of color.

Many Black voters say Biden has not done enough for them, and enthusiasm among Democrats overall for a second Biden term had been low. Even before the debate with Trump, Biden was trailing the Republican in some national polls and in the battleground states he would have needed to win to prevail on Nov. 5.

Harris was tasked with reaching out to those voters in recent months.

During the primary race, Biden accumulated more than 3,600 delegates to the Democratic National Convention to be held in Chicago in August. That was almost double the 1,976 needed to win the party’s nomination.

Unless the Democratic Party changes the rules, delegates pledged to Biden would enter the convention “uncommitted,” leaving them to vote on his successor.

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Democrats also have a system of “superdelegates,” unpledged senior party officials and elected leaders whose support is limited on the first ballot but who could play a decisive role in subsequent rounds.

Biden beat Trump in 2020 by winning in the key battleground states, including tight races in Pennsylvania and Georgia. At a national level, he bested Trump by more than 7 million votes, capturing 51.3% of the popular vote to Trump’s 46.8%.

-Reuters

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Global cyber outage grounds flights, hits banks, telecoms, media

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Passengers wait at Barajas Airport, as Spanish airport operator Aena on Friday reported a computer systems "incident" at all Spanish airports which may cause flight delays, in Madrid, Spain July 19, 2024. REUTERS/Elena Rodriguez

A global tech outage was disrupting operations across multiple industries on Friday, with airlines halting flights, some broadcasters off air and services from banking to healthcare hit by system problems.

While major U.S. airlines – American Airlines (AAL.O), opens new tab, Delta Airlines (DAL.N), opens new tab and United Airlines (UAL.O), opens new tab – grounded flights, other carriers and airports around the world reported delays and disruptions early on Friday.

Banks and financial services firms from Australia to India and Germany warned customers of disruptions.

In Britain, booking systems used by doctors were offline, multiple reports from medical officials on X said, while Sky News, one of the country’s major news broadcasters was off air, apologising for being unable to transmit live, and soccer club Manchester United said on X that it had to postpone a scheduled release of tickets

The former head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre Ciaran Martin told BBC Radio that an update to a product offered by global cyberscurity firm CrowdStrike (CRWD.O), opens new tab appeared to be affecting operating systems based on Microsoft’s Windows Operating System.

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Microsoft’s MSFT.O cloud unit Azure said it was aware of the issue that impacted virtual machines running Windows OS and the CrowdStrike Falcon agent getting stuck in a “restarting state,” amid an ongoing global outage.

“We’re aware of an issue affecting Windows devices due to an update from a third-party software platform. We anticipate a resolution is forthcoming,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

According to an alert sent by CrowdStrike to its clients and reviewed by Reuters, the company’s “Falcon Sensor” software is causing Microsoft Windows to crash and display a blue screen, known informally as the “Blue Screen of Death”.

The alert, which was sent at 0530 GMT on Friday, also shared a manual workaround to rectify the issue.

Over half of Fortune 500 companies used CrowdStrike software, the U.S. firm said in a promotional video this year.

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A Crowdstrike spokesperson did not respond to emails or calls requesting comment.

There was no information to suggest the outage was a cyber security incident, the office of Australia’s National Cyber Security Coordinator Michelle McGuinness said in a post on X. A British government source also told Reuters there was nothing to suggest foul play.

“The world grinding to a halt because of a global IT meltdown shows the dark side to technology,” AJ Bell investment analyst Dan Coatsworth said.

“The severity of the problem boils down to how long it lasts. A few hours’ disruption is unhelpful but not a catastrophe. Prolonged disruption is another matter,” he said.

The outages rippled far and wide.

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Airports in Singapore, Hong Kong and India said the outage meant some airlines were having to check in passengers manually.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, one of Europe’s busiest, said it was affected, while airline Iberia said it had been operating manually at airports until its electronic check-in counters and online check-ins were reactivated. It said there had been some delays but no flight cancellations.

Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA), opens new tab said its operations were disrupted.

The Dutch foreign affairs ministry told Dutch press agency ANP it had been affected. A spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

While there were reports of companies gradually restoring their services, analysts weighed the potential of what one called the biggest ever outage in the industry and the broader economy.

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“IT security tools are all designed to ensure that companies can continue to operate in the worst-case scenario of a data breach, so to be the root cause of a global IT outage is an unmitigated disaster,” said Ajay Unni, CEO of StickmanCyber, one of Australia’s largest cybersecurity services companies.

-Reuters

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