Donald Trump prepares to counter jury verdict in hush money case


DALLAS – Facing a week in which a New York jury could decide his legal fate, former President Donald Trump is busy lobbying voters to stick with him no matter what the justice system does.

“This is their form of rigging” the election, Trump told members of the National Rifle Association late Saturday while pledging to block gun control if he is sent back to the White House.

Trump’s NRA speech, which also touched on the challenging issue of abortion, heralded what could be a pivotal week. Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the New York hush money trial against him could make final arguments to the jury as early as Tuesday.

The case then goes to the jury, and its decision could have a seismic effect on the 2024 race between Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden. Trump is already the first former president in U.S. history to face a criminal indictment, and a potential conviction would go far beyond anything that’s happened before in American politics.

Trump’s counter-events

Seeking to counter any bad legal news, the Trump campaign is lining up campaign events for the end of the week.

Trump’s schedule includes an economy-and-inflation speech in New York City on Thursday and an address to the Libertarian Party convention in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

While emphasizing general campaign issues such as the cost of living and opposition to Biden – and specific issues such as gun rights – Trump is also making a basic claim about the legal issues against him: They are all politically motivated.

“I’m able to speak to the people, and the people understand it,” Trump told a supportive crowd at the NRA. He also complained in his remarks about the gag order pending against him in the hush money case that has already resulted in $10,000 in fines and a threat of jail time for future violations.

NRA members ponder a verdict on Trump

As NRA members mingled among gun industry exhibits at a cavernous convention center, they expressed confidence that Trump would block any gun control legislation if he were to regain the presidency.

Some supporters were less confident about the hush money trial, especially about whether a guilty verdict might hurt Trump in the general election race against Biden.

“I would stick with him, but I think it could make a difference in the election,” said Devin Fredrick, 29, a salesman from McKinney, Texas. “People on the fence may lean the other way because they don’t like to elect a convicted person.”

NRA members also said an acquittal – or a hung jury – would propel Trump to victory.

“I don’t think they’re going to convict him,” said Kimberly Carmines, 57, a financial manager from Arlington, Texas. “I think it’s political … completely.”

Others said Trump would survive a guilty verdict because voters believe his protests of the legal system. Timothy Pate, 58, a heavy equipment operator who traveled to the NRA convention from Paris, Texas, said “he’s going to come out a winner on this thing either way.”

‘I’d be fighting mad’

Amid marketers hawking hunting gear, and raffles for high-quality guns, NRA members said they certainly don’t blame Trump for being outspoken about his legal troubles.

Beverly Vinklarek, 78, a retired teacher from Texas, said Trump “may have a little mouth on him. But you know what? I would have a bigger mouth if I were him … I’d be fighting mad.”

In New York, Trump is accused of campaign finance law violations during the 2016 election regarding a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Three other cases are pending against Trump. One involves the handling of classified documents; two others concern alleged attempts to steal the 2020 election from Biden, events that led to the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

At the NRA convention, Murray Miles, 65, a retiree from Fort Worth, said the justice system has turned “a billionaire into a martyr” – with Republican voters, at least.

“The big question is how independents react,” he said. “They’re the ones who decide elections.”

Trump promotes gun rights

While denigrating the justice system, Trump is also appealing to his conservative base by stressing issues important to them, like gun rights.

Like Trump, the NRA has had legal troubles. In February, a New York jury found the NRA liable in a civil fraud case over the organization’s questionable spending; Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s long-time leader, stepped down.

In his speech, Trump did not reference the NRA’s internal problems. But he did say that their voter turnout in recent elections has not been up to par.

“We’ve got to get gun owners to vote,” Trump said.

During the weekend, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund formally endorsed Trump, saying the Second Amendment is at stake in the election.

Politically toxic agenda’

Democrats said voters have turned on gun groups because of their opposition to efforts to get guns off the streets, even in the wake of a string of mass shootings at schools, offices, and places of worship.

The Biden campaign put out a statement from Vice President Kamala Harris, who said that she and Biden “will continue to take on the gun lobby to keep Americans safe, while Donald Trump will continue to sacrifice our kids’ and communities’ safety to keep these special interests happy.”

Gun safety groups denounced Trump’s NRA appearance. John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety said that Trump “once again made clear that he is all in on the NRA’s politically toxic agenda of undoing the life-saving progress we’ve made on gun safety under President Biden.”

Democrats are confident that, like abortion rights, their agenda on guns is popular with independent voters.

While outlining his agenda on gun rights, immigration, law and order, and foreign affairs, Trump also spoke with the NRA about another politically sensitive social issue: abortion.

The former president repeated his stance that states should set abortion policy, not the federal government. That position has brought pushback from social conservatives and Trump supporters who want a federal ban on abortion.

A federal ban would hurt him and other Republican candidates, Trump said, telling the NRA that “we have to do the right thing, but we have to get elected.”

‘Campaign from the courthouse’

Trump is in the final stages of his “campaign from the courthouse”; soon he will embark on a new phase, campaigning after a jury verdict.

In addition to speaking with reporters gathered at the courthouse, Trump has a campaign event scheduled for Thursday in the Bronx borough of New York. The campaign said Trump plans to spotlight “the horrendous effects” of Biden’s presidency on our economy.

On Saturday, Trump is scheduled to address a political convention, one sponsored by the Libertarian Party in Washington, D.C.

At the NRA speech, Trump said the Republicans “have to join” with the Libertarians in a common front against both Biden and independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“We can’t take a chance on Joe Biden winning,” Trump said.

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