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News / Politics

Biden says questioning Trump’s guilty verdicts is ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’

By SEUNG MIN KIM and WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
Published: May 31, 2024, 1:20pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Friday that Donald Trump being found guilty in his New York hush money case reaffirms “the American principle that no one is above the law,” and he said “it’s reckless” and “dangerous” for his predecessor to suggest the legal system was rigged against him.

“Donald Trump was given every opportunity to defend himself. It was a state case, not a federal case and it was heard by a jury of 12 citizens, 12 Americans, 12 people like you,” Biden told reporters at the White House, a day after a jury in New York found Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts in a case stemming from the 2016 election.

He added that Trump’s “jury’s chosen the same way every jury in America’s chosen,” noted that jurors heard five weeks of evidence and reached “a unanimous verdict: They found Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts.”

The president said Trump could appeal the case “just like everyone else has that opportunity” then pointedly said, “It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, It’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict.”

“Our justice system has endured for nearly 250 years, and it literally is the cornerstone of America,” Biden said. “The justice system should be respected. And we should never let never allow anyone to tear it down.”

As the president left the podium after his remarks, a reporter shouted if he had any reaction to Trump calling himself a political prisoner and blaming the president directly for what’s happening to him. Biden stopped and flashed a grin, but did not answer the question.

He similarly didn’t answer when another reporter asked if he thought Trump should appear on November’s ballot.

None of the developments changed Trump’s defiant tone as he looked to galvanize supporters ahead of November. Moments after Biden spoke, Trump sent a fundraising email declaring, “I WAS JUST CONVICTED IN A RIGGED TRIAL. I AM A POLITICAL PRISONER!”

Biden was at his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, marking the anniversary of the 2015 death of his grown son, Beau from brain cancer when the jury reached its verdicts on Thursday, and he offered no personal reaction to the trial at the time. But he returned to Washington on Friday for an event at the White House with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, and spoke to reporters about the situation in the Middle East before delivering brief remarks on Trump’s case.

In comments to reporters at his namesake tower in Manhattan earlier Friday, Trump tried to cast himself as a martyr, suggesting that if he could be convicted, “They can do this to anyone.”

“I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to save our country and save our Constitution. I don’t mind,” Trump said.

Biden for months had carefully avoided involvement in Trump’s legal drama, looking to keep from feeding into his Republican rival’s claims that his criminal woes were the result of politically motivated prosecutions. But as the New York trial concluded, Biden’s campaign became far more vocal about it.

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His campaign had released a series of innuendo-laced statements that alluded to the trial to attack Trump’s policy positions, and then Biden himself quipped that he heard Trump was “free on Wednesdays” — the trial’s scheduled day off — in a video statement when he agreed to debate Trump head-to-head.

With closing arguments underway on Tuesday, Biden’s campaign even showed up outside the Manhattan courthouse with actor Robert De Niro and a pair of former police officers who responded to the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection, in what it said was an effort to refocus the presidential race on the former president’s role in the riot. That decision came as the campaign felt its message about the stakes of the election was struggling to break through the intense focus on the trial.

Shortly after Thursday’s verdict, Biden’s reelection campaign sought to keep the focus on the choice confronting voters in November and the impact of a second Trump presidency.

“A second Trump term means chaos, ripping away Americans’ freedoms and fomenting political violence – and the American people will reject it this November,” Biden spokesman Michael Tyler said in a statement.