Biden Condemns Trump Attacks on Court After Landmark Verdict

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden blasted Republican opponent Donald Trump’s attacks on a New York court that found him guilty in a criminal trial over hush-money payments, arguing they threaten to destabilize the US legal system.

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“It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged, just because they don’t like the verdict,” Biden said Friday in the State Dining Room of the White House. “Our justice system should be respected. We should never allow anyone to tear it down.”

Biden said that the verdict “reaffirmed” the “American principle that no one is above the law,” and pointed out his 2024 election opponent was afforded all the rights of any other criminal defendant — to make his case at a trial in front of a jury of his peers and to appeal the decision.

Biden’s comments were his first in-person remarks on the Trump verdict, a development that threatens to inject fresh turmoil into the presidential race.

The decision marks an unprecedented moment in US politics, with the presumptive nominee of a major political party now a convicted felon, although it is unclear whether the jury’s decision will sway voters.

Biden spoke hours after Trump gave an angry and rambling denunciation of his conviction in the lobby of his eponymous New York tower, underscoring the challenge the Republican faces courting swing voters as a convicted criminal.

Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter ahead of the 2016 election. The case is one of four criminal trials Trump faces, though the other three are uncertain to take place before the November election.

While the conviction poses clear challenges for Trump, who could be sentenced to as many as four years in prison, the situation will also test Biden with a deeply polarized American public that has expressed frustration with both major party candidates. Hammering too heavily on the conviction threatens to fuel GOP attacks that the prosecution was a partisan undertaking. But the verdict could also serve as a millstone for Trump and Republicans running in House and Senate races.

Asked by a Fox News reporter later Friday if the conviction would help Trump, Biden responded “I have no idea” and said he was not worried about being dragged into court after his own term ended.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. The system still works,” Biden said. He joked that he didn’t know he was “that powerful” when asked about Trump’s claims that he was behind the indictments.

Trump has assailed the criminal indictments as politically motivated, calling it a “rigged, disgraceful trial” after the verdict was read. He has repeated his claims without evidence that Biden orchestrated the prosecutions. He has said he will appeal the decision and may remain free during that process, which would allow him to return to the campaign trail.

The decision showed Trump’s iron grip on the party, which has seen the base rally behind him during his legal ordeals. Major GOP figures condemned the verdict. The Trump campaign said Friday it had raised $34.8 million in the less than 24 hours since the jury’s decision came down, a massive single-day sum that amounted to almost half of the $76 million Trump raised in all of April.

A Marquette Law School poll of registered voters conducted prior to the verdict, however, found a conviction would give Biden a 4 percentage-point lead in a national head-to-head match-up with Trump, while an acquittal would result in a 6-point Trump lead.

Ahead of the verdict, Biden’s campaign struggled with how to address Trump’s legal woes. His team had largely sidestepped the trial in favor of casting the presumptive GOP nominee as a grave threat to American democracy.

Biden’s campaign nonetheless appealed for donations after the verdict. “There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box,” Biden said in a fundraising message.

--With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron.

(Updates with additional Biden remarks in paragraphs 9-10)

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