Trump probation interview set for Monday after hush money conviction

The former president was convicted last month on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the hush money case against him.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Thursday accompanied by his lead attorney Todd Blanche at Manhattan criminal court.
Peter Foley / AP

Former President Trump is scheduled to sit for a virtual interview on Monday with a New York City probation officer from his home at Mar-a-Lago with his attorney Todd Blanche at his side after he was found guilty on all counts in the hush money trial against him last month, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The pre-sentencing probation interview will be done over a special virtual network with added security measures, and the interviewer will be a female, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. The call is not expected to be held over Zoom, those sources added.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was convicted last month on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the historic case. The probation interview is required by the court as part of the former president’s pre-sentencing report.

Former President Donald Trump was found guilty Thursday on all 34 felony counts in his criminal trial over concealing hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the hush money case, permitted Blanche to be present for the probation interview after prosecutors did not object. The Trump defense team is scheduled to submit their sentencing recommendation on June 13.

The former president is scheduled to be sentenced for all 34 felony counts in New York on July 11, days before the Republican National Convention begins.

Some legal experts noted that holding a probation interview over a video conference call is unusual but having the former president in a New York probation would also be unprecedented.

Martin Horn, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections and Probation, told NBC News, “it is highly unusual for a pre-sentence investigation interview to be done over Zoom," but acknowledged that an in-person visit by Trump to the probation office would be "very disruptive."

“But you can argue that Trump’s appearance at the probation office on the 10th floor of the Criminal Court Building in Manhattan where his trial took place, with Secret Service and press following him, would be very disruptive to the probation office and unfair to other defendants who might not want to be identified,” he said. “So in the end, this might be better for the probation officer.”

Horn noted that the typical purpose of a probation interview is to obtain information on Trump’s social and criminal history, financial resources, history of mental health, physical or addiction issues as well as to assess his living situation.

Trump could also be asked if he is associating with anyone with a criminal record because he cannot associate with them if he is placed on probation, Horn said. The probation officer may also want to interview others in Trump’s home afterward. Although officers typically fulfill their inquiries in one session, there could be follow-up interviews. The probation officer will then write a report and deliver it to Merchan.

The former president is facing anywhere from probation to up to four years in prison. Some legal experts have argued Trump is unlikely to face imprisonment due to his age, lack of a criminal record and other factors.

Duncan Levin, a former Manhattan prosecutor turned defense attorney, said the prosecution is likely to ask for jail time.

Blanche, Trump’s lawyer, will be present to ensure no questions put his client in legal jeopardy, Levin said. Although the hearing may seem like an unnecessary step due to Trump being one of the most vetted public figures, it is the court’s way of judging who he is beyond what came to light during the trial. 

“It is unlikely to move the needle because the judge knows so much about his background,” Levin said, referring to the probation hearing.

Levin also pointed to Merchan’s gag order against Trump after he attacked members of his family and the past jail sentence of Michael Cohen, Trump’s self-described former fixer who acted as the prosecution’s star witness, for a series of federal charges, including lying to Congress.

“To the extent that an E felony is punishable by jail, this case screams out for jail time, he has shown no remorse and has been held in contempt 10 times, but the judge warned him if he breaks the gag order I will send you to jail and then he did it again several times,” Levin said. “And subverting the election process is as serious a records violation as has ever come through the New York courts.”

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