Chicago reacts to Trump verdict, from ‘I couldn’t be happier’ to ‘It’s a witch hunt’

The news of former President Donald Trump’s conviction Thursday in a hush-money case that made him the first president in U.S. history to be convicted of a felony gave Glen Timmerman enough reason to treat himself to a celebratory martini at the Palmer House Hilton in the Loop.

Sporting a button with “Trump” crossed out on his lapel, the Rogers Park man had come downtown to see the play “Death Becomes Her” and was on State Street when a friend called him from Kansas City about the verdict. From that moment, Timmerman began frantically texting “everyone he knew.” Soon, he found himself hoisting a drink with fellow anti-Trump revelers.

“In this divisive country we have, the jurors were brave to come to such a quick decision,” said Timmerman, 67.

Trump’s quick conviction in New York on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a case that arose from paying off a porn star to not speak about an affair did not create any spontaneous public spectacles. There were not any major outcries supporting the ex-president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee or significant celebrations over the convictions. But many in Chicago, like Timmerman, expressed happiness with the verdict.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Peggy Lambert, 57, a graphic designer, said as she emerged from the glass doors of Trump Tower after dropping off papers for a client. “I was following the case so close I was starting to drive my husband crazy.”

A few hours earlier, she had been anxiously refreshing the live updates page of The New York Times. She said she hopes the guilty verdict will convince swing voters to choose President Joe Biden.

On the Chicago Riverwalk not far from the Trump building, Duane and Anica Lamkin, visiting from Los Angeles, took a photo of their 9-year-old daughter, Olive, pointing at Trump Tower with a toothy grin.

“We were gonna text the photo to my family and ask if we should send her in to break the news,” Duane Lamkin said with a laugh.

They were shocked when Trump’s guilty verdict was announced, but remain skeptical that it will affect the election.

“I thought the justice system would let us down, and maybe it still will,” Duane Lamkin said. “I just don’t think Trump will go to jail.”

At the mention of the former president, Olive booed. “He deserves it,” she muttered.

In political circles, reaction to the verdict came down along party lines, with Democrats celebrating and Republicans fuming.

A CBS Chicago news segment displays Trump trial verdict information on a screen facing Daley Plaza on May 30, 2024, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
A CBS News report about the guilty verdict in former President Donald Trump’s trial appears on a screen facing Daley Plaza in Chicago on May 30, 2024.(John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

“Donald Trump is a con artist, a bigot, and an embarrassment of a former president. And now, he’s a convicted felon,” Mayor Brandon Johnson wrote on X, the site formerly called Twitter. “Justice is served.”

“After facing a jury of his peers, Donald Trump is exposed as the liar and fraud that he is,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement shortly after the verdict was announced. “Donald Trump is a racist, a homophobe, a grifter, and a threat to this country. He can now add one more title to his list — a felon.

“But let me be clear, Donald Trump will never be 47,” Pritzker added, referring to the number of which president he’d be if he wins in November.

The state GOP and the far-right Illinois Freedom Caucus released statements blaming politics for the Trump criminal case.

“This weaponization of the judicial system has weakened our country here and in the eyes of the world, which I’m sure President Biden will savor while he vacations in Delaware as his handlers make critical decisions for the country,” Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy said in a statement.

The Illinois Freedom Caucus, which is made up of several state lawmakers who are strong Trump supporters, echoed the former president’s claims that the trial was rigged and accused the New York judge of having “his thumbs on the scales of justice.”

In Chicago, two Trump supporters who refused to give their full names said the case was unjust.

One man, who said he was visiting from Virginia, glanced up at Trump Tower as he passed by on the Riverwalk. “It’s always been a witch hunt,” said the man, who identified himself only as “Brodie.”

Although the conviction will not prevent Trump from running as the GOP nominee, the man said he was worried Trump wouldn’t be able to run in November.

“It makes me sick,” he said. “This country ain’t the same anymore.”

Another supporter of the former president said he stopped by the Trump Tower’s bar after hearing the verdict.

“I got a beer to show my support for him,” said the man, who only identified himself as “Jon.” Calling the verdict “a gross miscarriage of justice,” he blamed Biden for being behind the case, though it was a local trial and not a federal one.

“If someone were to have written this out on a script, and gone into Hollywood and tried to sell it, they wouldn’t buy it. It’s too unbelievable,” the man said.

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