Guilty verdict fuels Trump’s campaign: ‘Our entire country is being manipulated’

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NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s conviction Thursday makes him the first former president to become a felon — and he will be the first in a presidential campaign to argue that it is even more reason to re-elect him.

That act of campaigning on his criminal conviction began the moment Trump left the Manhattan courtroom, turned to the crowd of reporters and spoke of the verdict in terms of a larger war in which he was involved.

“I’m a very innocent man, and it’s okay, I’m fighting for our country. I fight for our constitution. Our entire country is now being manipulated,” Trump said, calling the proceedings a “rigged, disgraceful process.”

A conviction could do little to change Trump’s existing, resentment-filled campaign strategy. At rallies and in public comments for more than the past year, Trump has described sinister, Democratic forces coming after him — and warned his supporters, without evidence, that those in power will also come for Americans whose beliefs are similar to his. Trump is the only one who can stop them, he says.

Trump’s guilty verdict, despite being determined by a jury of average New Yorkers, will only further strengthen his claims that he is being targeted by the justice system as a way to prevent him from regaining the White House. President Joe Biden has said little about Trump’s legal troubles, aside from making some indirect comments and jokes about Trump being tied up in a lawsuit and sending surrogates to the courthouse on Tuesday, though he is expected to will change tactics now that Trump has been convicted.

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Shortly after the jury returned the verdict, Biden’s communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement that “today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people are faced with a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: through the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.”

Biden’s campaign also posted a fundraising appeal for the campaign on social media.

Trump and his team had already raised expectations in recent days ahead of a possible guilty verdict, suggesting it was likely (“Mother Teresa couldn’t beat these charges,” he said a day earlier), but tried to narrow down its meaning to downplay voters (“The average working American has already acquitted Donald Trump,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Trump surrogate, told Fox News outside the courthouse as the jury deliberated Thursday.

But he will now have to embrace his status as a criminal — and, as he has long said, as a victim of “weaponization of the justice system” and political persecution — as Trump continues his presidential campaign — including the first televised general election debate. in less than a month. Trump has remained ahead of Biden in swing state polls throughout the trial, which he and his campaign say is a sign that Americans are unswayed by the prospect of him being convicted.

A campaign video released Thursday morning, featuring dramatic footage of Trump walking and footage of him at rallies and greeting supporters, flashed a message on the screen: “They’re trying to stop him. It does not work. TRUMP IS NOT GOING.”

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Trump’s attorney Alina Habba, who is not representing him in the New York case but has been to court with him regularly, told reporters before the decision that her message to Trump supporters is: “Be patient. Don’t look at the verdicts we get. To wait.”

“We will appeal,” Habba continued. “We will show them what really happened.”

Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, told Fox News’ Jesse Watters during an interview Thursday evening that the former president was “very involved” in his legal defense and previously joked that he wanted to be the trial attorney. Blanche also denounced the matter in general.

“This is not fair. This is not what this country should be doing to its political leaders, past and present,” he said.

A person with knowledge of the strategy said earlier this week that in anticipation of an eventual outcome, the Trump campaign had prepared to campaign on a guilty verdict.

Throughout the trial, Trump attempted to take advantage of his confinement in court by sending out fundraising emails and text messages seemingly recounting his legal experience – that he entered the courtroom that day, that he had just “stormed out” of the courtroom, that he will hold an “emergency press conference” at the end of the day.

There is no clear evidence that Trump’s conviction will have a drastic effect on the presidential election, and polling surrounding the case and its impact on voters is limited. Because the trial was not televised, the proceedings remained opaque to those outside the courtroom – which was almost everyone in America – and coverage of the verdict and subsequent conviction and expected appeal could have a greater impact on public opinion .

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Polls over the past month and a half have shown mixed information about how closely voters were following news of the trial — but overall, they have shown that Americans view the Manhattan criminal case as less serious than Trump’s other three, which may not be before come to court. before the November elections.

A Quinnipiac University poll carried out in mid-May found that while 46 percent of respondents believed Trump had done something illegal in the hush money case, 29 percent said it was something unethical but not illegal, and 21 percent said Trump had done nothing wrong — the latter two groups combined for 50%. per cent.

Those figures were comparable to polls taken early in the trial, which showed that news reports about the case made only a limited contribution to changing public opinion about Trump’s behavior.

Trump will undoubtedly use the conviction to further accuse President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party of political persecution, a line of attack he deployed long before the trial began.

The trial unfolded as Trump held a monthslong lead over Biden in the critical swing state polls.

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