Trump Virtual Interview With Probation Office Was 30 Minutes

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump was interviewed Monday by a New York probation officer whose sentencing report will help a judge decide how much time, if any, the former president will spend behind bars for falsifying business records, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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The meeting lasted 30 minutes, and Trump joined virtually from his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, said the person, who declined to be identified because the details of the interview aren’t public. Trump’s lead defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, also participated in the meeting, the person said.

Trump, 77, is scheduled to be sentenced July 11 after becoming the first former US president to be found guilty of a crime in a case brought last year by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump faces as long as four years in prison, though legal experts expect he’ll serve far less than that and may get probation only, due to his age and his status as a first-time offender.

“President Trump and his legal team are already taking necessary steps to challenge and defeat the lawless Manhattan DA case,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement.

A New York jury on May 30 found Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election — to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter. It’s one of four criminal cases Trump is facing as he campaigns to return to the White House in the November presidential election.

Justice Juan Merchan, who oversaw the hush-money case, will use the probation report to help decide on the sentence. Trump’s lawyers, as well as prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will submit separate sentencing recommendations. It’ll be up to Merchan to decide how much weight to give each recommendation.

In New York, the probation office conducts pre-sentencing interviews with defendants who are convicted of felonies and serious misdemeanors. The officers typically examine the defendant’s criminal record, interview arresting officers, family members and victims. According to the New York court system’s website, the interview is “a chance for the defendant to try to make a good impression and explain why he or she deserves a lighter punishment.”

The virtual interview with probation officials was reported earlier by NBC News.

The sentence is due to be handed down in Manhattan just days before the Republican National Convention July 15-18, when Trump will officially accept his party’s nomination.

Bragg hasn’t indicated what kind of sentence he’ll recommend. It’s not unusual for prosecutors to suggest prison terms well below the maximum, especially for first-time offenders like Trump. Trump’s lawyers are likely to seek leniency.

Plans for the sentencing hearing next month are moving ahead even as Trump aims to overturn the verdict. The former president’s legal team has a June 13 deadline to file post-verdict motions. Trump’s team is expected to ask the judge to reexamine some aspects of the trial, with a likely focus on testimony by Bragg’s star witness, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

If Trump’s motions fail, the sentencing hearing will go ahead as planned. Once Trump is sentenced, he can begin a formal appeal of the verdict, which could take months to resolve.

President Joe Biden, who will face off against Trump in November, has assailed his rival as a “convicted felon” who poses a threat to US democracy if he is reelected. But the verdict has rallied Republicans behind Trump, who raised nearly $53 million in the 24 hours following the jury’s decision.

Trump spent the past several days campaigning and fundraising in California and Nevada, where his campaign took in $33.5 million, according to a person familiar with the events.

(Updates with Trump completing interview.)

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