Emil Guillermo: Before AANHPI Month ends, a former president with a racist legal strategy becomes a convicted felon

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History was made on the eve of the last day of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the month we celebrate our inclusion in society.

It was the first time ever a former president became a convicted felon. And without a doubt, it was fueled by an unconscious but racist Asian twist.

But first, May 30, 2024 shall forever be remembered in American history as the day Donald Trump was finally held accountable, and when it can be said that the former president is truly not above the law.

After just 12 hours of deliberation, a 7 man-5 woman jury, found Trump guilty of 34 felony charges for falsifying business documents (checks he signed) that were called “legal fees” and not reimbursements for payments of $130,000 to a porn star.

The payments were intended to cover up a Trump affair with the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, a saga Trump didn’t want any voting citizen to know about so close to the 2016 election. That was his motivation after the release of the salacious “Access Hollywood” tape that grabbed headlines and showed the world exactly how Trump felt about women.

Trump, who likes to talk about how things are rigged against him, thought he knew how to rig things in his favor. The payments were the cover-up and the fix, part of a “catch and kill” scheme enabled by his friend and accomplice, the National Enquirer’s David Pecker.

Pecker testified he essentially was part of the Trump campaign. And then there was testimony by another ally, Hope Hicks, who tearfully revealed that Trump knew about the payments, the fix.

Because the payments were meant to keep the electorate from knowing the truth, it turned the act into a federal election crime, making the $130,000 payment to Daniels an illegal campaign donation.

And now eight years later, the overwhelming evidence including 34 checks with Trump’s signature, proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Here’s where the Asian angle comes in. Trump’s defense team said their strategy was to employ a “death by thousand cuts” defense, according to reporting by CNN legal correspondent Paula Reid quoting Trump insiders.

When I heard that I stopped in my tracks.

If that was Donald Trump’s strategy, it was definitely racist, as racist as to say someone “welched” on a bet, or was “jewed” on a sale, or “gypped,” or taken by a “paddy wagon” to jail.

It’s only considered innocent talk by the ignorant.

“Death by a thousand cuts” is the English translation of the phrase lingchi (IPA: lǐŋ.ʈʂʰɨ̌, Chinese: 凌遲), known as a form of torture used in China starting from the 10th century.

It’s a racist way of saying Trump’s defense led by Todd Blanche was like a thousand little attacks, in this case on the credibility of the person they saw as the key witness in the case, former Trump attorney/fixer Michael Cohen.

Cohen on the witness stand was pilloried by the defense as the “GLOAT,” the “greatest liar of all time.”

But everything Cohen said was corroborated by other witnesses, notably the Enquirer’s Pecker, testimony that the jury would revisit during deliberations. Apparently, Pecker trumped Cohen in the jury’s eyes, and that led to the decision to convict.

That and jurors’ wanting an explanation of the “rain” metaphor helped.

The rain metaphor is the idea that if it rained overnight and the sidewalks are wet, one can infer that it rained even if we didn’t directly see raindrops.

In that way, a direct link to Trump wasn’t necessary.

Trump didn’t testify, but the 5th Amendment prevents his lack of testimony from even being considered.

The “rain” metaphor gave jurors the confidence to proceed unanimously.


Of course, it is not over. There will no doubt be appeals. And despite a conviction, Trump is still allowed to go to the Republican convention and continue his run to be president again.

No one ever expected the president of our great democracy to be so criminal or so shameless.

And yet, Trump carries his felony convictions on his chest like a beauty pageant sash, a string of “F’s,” 34 of them. Indeed, according to his MO, he is fundraising off it, raising millions while calling himself a “political prisoner.”

He is nothing of the sort.

He is a convicted felon, who should be treated like anyone else.

Why should being a former president give him any sense of privilege?

If an Asian American or any other person of color were in his place, there would be no talk of leniency to such a degree.

For his conviction, Trump could face up to 4 years by some estimates. As a first-time offender, he may get up to six months. But he is still facing the balance of more than 90 felony counts in three other cases. Plus, Trump shows no remorse. He had his fist raised in defiance as he passed supporters last night in front of Trump Tower.

Is he likely to commit the same crimes again? Yes.

It is time for the 30 percent of Asian America who have voted for Trump in the past to reconsider any ongoing support. We can hope. A Marist poll found that the vast majority (68 percent) of Trump voters say if Trump is convicted, it would not make any difference.

That’s our national problem. This should be a great day for our democracy and the rule of law. A former president was found guilty by a jury of his peers.

And yet, there are people, notably the so-called "law and order" types, who hypocritically do not respect justice unless it suits them, and instead are now plotting for revenge in the name of Trump.

That we are not all unified in praising our democracy and the rule of law by Thursday ‘s verdict is most troubling for our country.

Things aren’t back to normal.

They would if Trump would do a truly extraordinary thing—to put country first. He could step down as the presumptive Republican leader, and not run.

That’s the way our founding fathers would have wanted it. But that's my patriotic fantasy. That’s not the way it is in 2024.

So on the final day of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we count our blessings. Take this time to reflect on what it means to be American in this great democracy, where justice can work.

And let’s be thankful that lingchi did not work for Donald Trump.


NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on