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Sunday, June 16, 2024
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‘There will never be justice’: UF progressives, professors react to Trump’s conviction

Trump said the true verdict will come Nov. 5

President Donald Trump points his finger at the crowd during his campaign rally at the Ocala International Airport on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.
President Donald Trump points his finger at the crowd during his campaign rally at the Ocala International Airport on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

UF College Democrats President Connor Effrain was in Washington, D.C., roughly 20 minutes walking distance from the U.S. Capitol building when the news broke. The slack face of former President Donald Trump flashed across his phone screen beside the word “guilty.”

“It’s great that finally he’s getting what’s coming to him,” Effrain said.

Trump is now the first former U.S. president to be convicted of a felony. He made history May 30 when he was found guilty on 34 felony charges for an attempt to influence the 2016 election through a hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels who alleged the two had sex.

“Mother Teresa could not beat these charges,” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom. “These charges are rigged. The whole thing is rigged.”

Effrain said the guilty verdict was long overdue. However, he said the court’s decision wouldn’t erase the social and political division that followed Trump’s 2016 presidency, which he described as a “disaster.” 

“Most importantly, the way he undermined democracy I think will hurt America for generations to come,” he said.

If Trump evades prison, Effrain said enacting another form of punishment along with the suspension of his 2024 presidential candidacy is essential to preserving the rule of law.

“Nobody who tried to overturn the 2020 election, who tried to destroy democracy in the United States should ever be allowed to run for president,” he said. 

UF College Republicans posted the news of Trump’s conviction on its Instagram account minutes after the jury made its decision. The organization lamented that the sole juror who received their news from Truth Social, Trump’s social media platform, did not vote to acquit the former president.

“Our guy who only got his news from Truth Social let us down,” the post read. “It’s over.”

UF College Republicans did not respond to The Alligator for comment. Turning Point UF and UF Young Americans for Freedom, two other prominent campus conservative student organizations, also did not respond for comment.

Multiple UF community members who said they supported Trump also declined to comment.

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Judge Juan M. Merchan set Trump’s sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee where GOP leaders are expected to formally make him their presidential nominee. Florida Republicans have vouched for Trump through social media, echoing his position that the “real verdict” would be cast by voters in the November general election. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who ran against Trump in the presidential primary before suspending his campaign in January, derided the conviction as the politically motivated ploy of a “kangaroo court.”

“Today’s verdict represents the culmination of a legal process that has been bent to the political will of the actors involved: a leftist prosecutor, a partisan judge and a jury reflective of one of the most liberal enclaves in America — all in an effort to ‘get’ Donald Trump,” DeSantis wrote in an X post.

UF President Ben Sasse, a former Nebraska Republican senator, was a vocal critic of Trump’s political attitude and was one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection. During a 2020 phone call with his constituents, Sasse said Trump “flirts with white supremacists” and “kisses dictators’ butts.”

Sasse, who has said his criticism of Trump shaped his legacy as a senator, has kept to his pledge of “political celibacy” as a university president and hasn’t publicly commented on the conviction. University presidents across Florida and the country have also held off on publicly commenting on Trump’s conviction. 

It is unclear whether Trump will be able to vote for himself in the general election. He was convicted in New York but lives in Florida, a Republican-led state that has made it harder for convicted felons to vote. However, DeSantis said in an X post he would guarantee Trump’s right to vote in the November general election. 

“Given the absurd nature of the New York prosecution of Trump, this would be an easy case to qualify for restoration of rights per the Florida Clemency Board, which I chair,” DeSantis wrote.

Some voting rights groups have agreed with DeSantis’ position that Florida honors other state’s rules related to out-of-state convictions. However, the Florida Justice Project, a nonprofit group that represents felons seeking to restore their voting rights, said Florida statutes and state constitutional provisions do not make “any such statement or distinction regarding out-of-state convictions.”

Stephen Craig, a UF political science professor specializing in public opinion and voting behavior, wasn’t so sure. He said it’s too soon for anybody to gauge how Trump’s conviction will affect his eligibility to vote and run for office or his performance in the November election.

“Damned if I know,” Craig wrote in an email correspondence.

While Valentina Galvan felt the verdict was a step in the right direction, she said the trial left Trump’s rap sheet of wrongdoings largely unaddressed, causing her to view the decision as symbolic more than anything else. 

“In my eyes, there will never be justice,” said the 18-year-old UF anthropology sophomore. 

As a Mexican-American woman, Galvan recalled experiencing “devastation” after Trump’s 2016 inauguration. She expressed further disapproval of his current candidacy, criticizing his border policies, stance on reproductive rights and involvement in foreign conflicts. 

“That guy deserves years and years of jail time,” she said. “America couldn’t be more of a joke than allowing a literal convicted felon in our office, but whatever.” 

The former president said the “real verdict” would come Nov. 5, alluding to the continuation of his presidential campaign. However, he has yet to offer a formal confirmation. 

“Pardon my French, but f-ck Trump,” Galvan said. 

Tyler Cousis, a 19-year-old UF mechanical engineering sophomore, said he was never enthused by Trump, especially during his time in office. 

“A lot of his popularity is from personal charisma and lying on stage,” he said.

While he felt the guilty conviction followed a clear-cut case, Cousis said he was nearly certain Trump would not be taken into custody. 

“I feel like he’s pretty corrupt,” he said. “He’s mainly running for election just to try to avoid jail at this point.” 

Contact Rylan DiGiacomo-Rapp and Garrett Shanley at rdigiacomo-rapp@alligator.org and gshanley@alligator.org. Follow them on X @rylan_digirapp and @garrettshanley.

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Garrett Shanley

Garrett Shanley is a fourth-year journalism major and the Summer 2024 university editor for The Alligator. Outside of the newsroom, you can find him watching Wong Kar-Wai movies and talking to his house plants.


Rylan DiGiacomo-Rapp

Rylan DiGiacomo-Rapp is a third-year journalism and environmental science major and metro editor for The Alligator. Outside of the newsroom, you can usually find her haunting local music venues.


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