Biden team takes aim at Trump after guilty verdict

After weeks of largely ignoring former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York, President Biden’s campaign weighed in Thursday evening after Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts, saying the verdict showed that “no one is above the law.”

But campaign officials also say privately they do not expect the verdict, striking as it is, to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the tight presidential race, given that Trump’s loyal supporters are likely to rally around him, while swing voters have already factored in his tendency to break the rules.

“Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain,” Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director, said in a statement. “But today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.”

The statement, which marked the first time Biden officials had commented directly on the court proceedings, reflected the campaign’s plan to focus only lightly on Trump’s legal troubles in the months to come, as they quickly pivoted to the presumptive Republican nominee’s record and policy proposals.

“A second Trump term means chaos, ripping away Americans’ freedoms and fomenting political violence — and the American people will reject it this November,” Tyler said.

Trump was convicted of falsifying business records to hide payments he made to squelch news of his affair with an adult-film actress, which prosecutors said he feared would be politically damaging. Trump strongly denied the charges and is expected to appeal.

Before the verdict came down, Biden campaign officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy, said their message would continue to center on Trump’s record, even as discussions are ongoing about whether to lean harder into his new status as a felon.

Biden himself did not formally address the verdict Thursday evening, but he posted a fundraising appeal on X shortly after Trump was found guilty.

“There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box,” he wrote. “Donate to our campaign today.”

If Biden’s campaign was restrained, his White House was even more so, as the president has been at pains to demonstrate that he has not sought to influence Trump’s case. “We respect the rule of law, and have no additional comment,” Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office, said in a statement.

Trump’s team and allies have regularly blamed Biden for his legal troubles, saying without evidence that he has “weaponized” the Justice Department. But Thursday’s verdict came in a case that was brought by a locally elected New York prosecutor, Alvin Bragg.

White House officials say there are no plans for the president to deliver formal remarks on the Trump verdict, but he is likely to be peppered with questions from reporters during his next public appearance, at a ceremony Friday at the White House to honor the Kansas City Chiefs for winning the Super Bowl.

The Biden family faces its own legal ordeal next week, when the president’s son, Hunter Biden, goes on trial on federal charges of lying on an official form when he bought a gun in 2018. Special counsel David Weiss contends that Hunter Biden broke the law by falsely indicating on the form that he was not using drugs despite being in the throes of a serious addiction.

Thursday’s verdict came on a solemn day for Biden, as he marked the ninth anniversary of the death of his son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015. The president began the day by visiting his son’s gravesite with his family in Wilmington, Del., before traveling to his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach.

During the trial, even as some Democrats suggested Biden’s campaign should use Trump’s legal troubles to their political benefit, Biden and his aides kept their distance.

After the verdict, Trump repeated his false assertion that Biden and his administration brought the case against him for political gain, saying the case was “done by the Biden administration in order to wound or hurt a political opponent.”

“The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people,” Trump said as he left the courthouse.

Biden and his campaign have occasionally made oblique references to the trial, often joking about Trump appearing to sleep during the proceedings. On other occasions they have quipped that Trump is facing a “stormy” stretch, a reference to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who was a central figure in the trial.

On Tuesday, as the prosecution and defense presented closing arguments, Biden’s campaign held a news conference outside the Manhattan courthouse with actor Robert De Niro, who recently provided the voice-over for a Biden television ad, and two officers who helped defend the U.S. Capitol from rioting Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021.

Biden’s campaign said they went to New York because the media was there and they did not intend to address the criminal trial. Their scripted remarks focused on framing Trump as a threat to democracy, but De Niro later went off script, saying Trump was guilty and belonged in jail.

Trump still faces additional felony charges in Washington, Georgia and Florida, though those trials may not begin until after Election Day.

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