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Illinois lawmakers react to felony conviction of former president Donald Trump

Bill Hauter at WCBU's studio. Hauter is the Republican representative for the 87th district.
courtesy/Bill Hauter
Illinois Rep. Bill Hauter standing in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

Central Illinois Republican legislator Bill Hauter calls the guilty verdict in the New York criminal trial of former President Donald Trump “disappointing.”

Hauter, an anesthesiologist from Morton, is the representative for Illinois House District 87, a mostly rural area between Bloomington-Normal, Peora, Decatur and Springfield. He said the verdict demonstrates a “two-tiered justice system.”

“I think, clearly, it was targeted ‘lawfare,’” Hauter said. “I don’t think the justice system was blind. I don’t think any Democrat would have been brought up for charges. And that’s sad, when you say that, it’s only one person or one party [that] can be targeted for this special prosecution of, basically, a very unique and novel way to bring these charges against a former president.”

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, called it a case of political persecution that undermines the rule of law and faith in the justice system. The former federal prosecutor said the convictions should be overturned on appeal.

"Prosecutors are taught to prosecute crimes, not people," LaHood said in a social media post. "The charges brought in the NY case against President Trump by a politically motivated (district attorney) seeking to fulfill a campaign promise would not have been rendered against anyone else."

U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, a southern Illinois GOP lawmaker who attended Trump's trial last week, issued a statement on social media, calling the trial and verdict a "complete SHAM" and called the prosecutor "corrupt."

Hauter said he’s not surprised by the verdict; it was “pretty determined” in his mind.

On Thursday, a jury of 12 New Yorkers found Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 election via a $310,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

The jury deliberated for about 11 hours over two days before returning the unanimous guilty verdict.

Hauter said the verdict sets a precedent for future administrations and government officials to bring charges against political opponents for their own gain.

The Biden administration has repeatedly denied any direct involvement with Trump’s various charges that were filed by the state of New York.

Still, the state-level cases come from Democrat state’s attorneys with “something to prove,” contended Hauter.

“I think only the most extreme partisan person can look at this and say that this is not targeting the former president,” he said. “I think it’s very dangerous.”

If Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee returns to the White House in November, Hauter said he would not be surprised if Biden is under scrutiny for prosecution. He said he wouldn’t like to see the justice system used that way either.

Ultimately, Hauter believes the verdict means little for the results of the November election, or voters who already planned on voting for Trump.

“Unfortunately, I think it will, will probably strengthen them in a lot of ways,” he said.

The verdict has a similar impact on Hauter’s own support for his party’s presumptive nominee.

“It can only strengthen my feelings for Trump, even though I have, in essence, mixed feelings on him,” he said. “Definitely. He’s better than Biden, in all areas that I can see.”

Democrats' reaction

Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, said the guilty verdict shows the law “has caught up with him.”

“Justice has been served. After facing a jury of his peers, Donald Trump is exposed as the liar and fraud that he is,” the second-term governor said in a statement.

“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 (the 47th president).”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the case is proof that no one is above the law, "not even a former president."

"Today's verdict is another reminder that Donald Trump is unfit for public service. Now it's up to the American people to decide if he is worthy of the seat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office."

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.
Eric Stock is a reporter at WGLT.