D.A. in Trump’s Hush-Money Case to Make Sentencing Recommendation

The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday is expected to make its recommendation to a judge on whether to imprison Donald J. Trump for his recent felony conviction, a crucial step in the first criminal sentencing of an American president.

The sentence is likely to be the only moment of criminal accountability the four-times indicted former president will face before Election Day, when he hopes to reclaim the White House. Mr. Trump faces up to four years in prison in the Manhattan case but could receive probation. The case ended in May with his conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records — among the lowest level of felonies — related to his cover-up of a sex scandal in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump’s other criminal cases are mired in delay, and on Monday, the Supreme Court provided him substantial immunity from prosecution for official acts, a decision that will almost certainly delay his trial in Washington, where he is accused of plotting to subvert the 2020 election.

In the Manhattan case, the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, will submit his recommendation to the judge who oversaw the trial, Juan M. Merchan, but it is unclear whether those legal papers will be public. Unlike in federal court, sentencing papers in New York State courts are generally confidential unless the judge authorizes their release. That means the world may not learn of Mr. Bragg’s recommendation until Justice Merchan sentences Mr. Trump on July 11, just days before Mr. Trump is expected to be formally nominated for president at the Republican National Convention.

The judge faces an unprecedented conundrum with equally unprecedented legal and political ramifications. His a decision is sure to alienate broad swaths of the country no matter what it is.

Imprisoning Mr. Trump could exacerbate the nation’s political divisions. Yet if Justice Merchan spares him, it could give the impression that the former president received special treatment. Mr. Trump’s front-runner status in the 2024 presidential campaign further compounds the judge’s dilemma, raising the prospect that his decision could shape the race and its outcome.

The judge, a former prosecutor who occasionally clashed with Mr. Trump and his lawyers, has several options at his disposal. Mr. Trump could face a few months in jail or several years in prison. But it’s just as likely that he won’t ever see the inside of a cell: There is no requirement that the judge impose time behind bars, and Justice Merchan could sentence him to home confinement or probation. He could also postpone any sentence until after the election, or, after Mr. Trump serves his second term in office, should he be re-elected. A sitting president cannot be required to serve time.

After Mr. Bragg submits his recommendation, Mr. Trump’s lawyers are entitled to respond with their own recommendation early next week. It is unclear whether that submission will be confidential as well.

The judge could draw on feedback from the New York City probation department, which met with Mr. Trump last month and will make its own confidential recommendation for his sentence.

Several factors are working in Mr. Trump’s favor: A major one is that he is a first-time felon convicted of a nonviolent crime. On the other hand, Mr. Trump’s behavior before and during the trial could cost him his freedom: He has shown no remorse and on 10 separate occasions violated a gag order that prohibited him from attacking jurors, prosecutors and witnesses — including the prosecution’s star witness, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

A jury of 12 New Yorkers convicted Mr. Trump of falsifying records related to a hush-money deal that he and Mr. Cohen carried out in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Cohen paid the money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, to silence her story of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, who then falsified the records to conceal his repayment to Mr. Cohen.

It was arguably the least consequential of Mr. Trump’s four criminal cases — he was charged in Florida with mishandling classified documents and in Washington and Georgia with seeking to overturn his 2020 election loss — but it is most likely the only one he will face before Election Day. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday sent his Washington case back to a lower court to decide whether Mr. Trump’s actions were in an official or private capacity.

The Supreme Court ruling was the latest legal victory for Mr. Trump, who also recently benefited from Justice Merchan’s loosening the gag order, allowing the former president to resume his attacks on witnesses and on jurors in the case. Once the judge imposes Mr. Trump’s sentence on July 11, he will lift the gag order entirely, enabling Mr. Trump to take aim at prosecutors and their families as well.

The day after the sentencing, Mr. Bragg, a Democrat, is expected to testify before Congress, where Mr. Trump’s Republican allies are expected to assail the case as a politically motivated witch hunt.

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