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Republicans Show a United Front Against Donald Trump’s Conviction
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Republicans Show a United Front Against Donald Trump’s Conviction

Plus: Is Joe Biden running a base election?

Happy Friday! As you might have heard, former President Donald Trump was convicted on all 34 counts yesterday in his criminal trial. Be sure to check out special editions of The Collision newsletter and the Advisory Opinions podcast for more coverage of the verdict.

Up to Speed

  • Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday, alleging that CNN was colluding with the campaigns of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in its June 27 debate. “CNN is making prohibited corporate contributions to both campaigns and the Biden committee and the Trump committee have accepted these prohibited corporate contributions,” a lawyer for Kennedy wrote in the complaint. Kennedy accused the network of designing qualifications ensuring only the two presumptive major-party candidates would appear in the debate, which CNN denied in a statement to the Associated Press.
  • As Trump’s hush money trial entered its final stages, the Biden campaign has appeared jealous of the attention news outlets have given to it. “The President just spoke to approx 1,000 mostly black voters in Philly about the massive stakes in this election,” campaign adviser T.J. Ducklo wrote on X Thursday afternoon before Trump’s jury reached its verdict. “@MSNBC @CNN & others did not show it. Instead, more coverage about a trial that impacts one person: Trump. Then they’ll ask, why isn’t your message getting out?” Campaign communications director Michael Tyler used a similar rationale to justify a press conference outside the trial’s courthouse Tuesday. “You’ve been incessantly covering this day in and day out, and we want to remind the American people ahead of the first debate on June 27 of the unique, persistent, and growing threat that Donald Trump poses to the American people and toward our democracy,” he told reporters. “So, since you all are here, we’re here communicating that message as we will day in, day out until the debate in Atlanta.”
  • Trump led Biden in six out of seven swing states, with the two tied in Wisconsin, in a Thursday poll from the Cook Political Report. The former president’s lead was as wide as 9 points in Nevada and as narrow as 1 point in Arizona. In the same poll, Democratic Senate candidates led their GOP counterparts, most by 5 points or more. The exception was Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Michigan’s seat, who led a to-be-determined Republican opponent by 2 points.
  • The Biden administration is preparing to address one of the president’s biggest political liabilities by issuing restrictions that would automatically close the southern border to new asylum applicants if authorities encountered a certain number of migrants per day, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Some of the policies under consideration appeared in the bipartisan border deal Republicans in Congress have twice rejected. Now Biden is looking at instituting them via executive order.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Friday switched his party affiliation from Democrat to independent. Doing so enables the longtime moderate to run for reelection as an independent in his state’s Senate election this fall against Republican Gov. Jim Justice and Democrat Mayor of Wheeling Glenn Elliot. Manchin has not formally declared candidacy for any office, but a local media outlet recently reported that Republicans who are unhappy with their nominee to succeed Justice as governor have courted Manchin to run in that race.
  • In more Senate news, Keystone Renewal, the super PAC supporting Dave McCormick as he runs to unseat longtime Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, has reserved $30 million worth of TV ad space, the New York Times reported Thursday. The super PAC has thus far spent about $3.6 million in positive ads for McCormick but will soon shift its focus toward attacking Casey, according to the report. Pennsylvania is a key race the GOP has focused on as one of four contests through which the party’s path to control of the Senate runs.

Trump Sets Tone for Republican Rebuke of His Guilty Verdict

Supporters raise Trump-themed flags across the street from Trump Tower before the former president and Republican presidential candidate holds a press conference  on May 31, 2024. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters raise Trump-themed flags across the street from Trump Tower before the former president and Republican presidential candidate holds a press conference on May 31, 2024. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

The email fundraising appeals from Donald Trump hit fast and furious Thursday evening after the former president was convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up an extramarital affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

  • “I am a political prisoner.” 
  • “I was just convicted in a rigged trial!”
  • “Darkest Day in American history!”
  • “Never Surrender!”
  • “They say I’m guilty!”

On Friday morning, the Trump campaign claimed to have raised $34.8 million in small-dollar donations since the verdict was announced.

Elected Republicans and other prominent figures in the party followed suit with similar expressions of outrage and doomsaying, taking their cues directly from the presumptive GOP nominee and his campaign’s digital push to raise badly needed resources for the battle to topple President Joe Biden in November. It might not have been coordinated or prearranged. But it may as well have been.

“Today is a shameful day in American history. Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon. This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said in a prepared statement. “The weaponization of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden Administration, and the decision today is further evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents.”

“The American people rightfully see this is lawfare, and they know it is—and dangerous. President Trump will rightfully appeal this absurd verdict—and he WILL WIN,” the Louisiana Republican added.

Hung Cao, a Republican running for the Senate in Virginia, echoed the Trump-driven GOP messaging, declaring the United States no better than a banana republic—claims the former president has been making since last year, when he was indicted in four separate criminal cases. “What has become of America?” Cao said in a statement. “This is the kind of thing you see in third-world countries. I never thought I’d see it here. We will have our voices heard on November 5th. We will re-elect President Trump and save America.”

Then, of course, there were the Republicans competing to be selected as Trump’s running mate ahead of the party’s mid-July nominating convention in Milwaukee. 

  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, in a Fox News interview: “I think people get that it’s impossible for President Trump to get a fair trial in New York.” 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, in a post on X: “The verdict in New York is a complete travesty that makes a mockery of our system of justice. … Biden and the Trump deranged left will stop at nothing to remain in power.”
  • Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York in a post on X: “Joe Biden, Far Left Democrats, and their stenographers in the mainstream media have made it clear they will stop at nothing to prevent President Trump from returning to the White House. We must work around the clock to ensure President Trump is victorious this November to save America from … the illegal weaponization of the justice system against the American people.”

To be fair, not every Republican critique of the trial was funneled through Trump’s hyperbolic megaphone. Even top Republicans who are hardly chummy with the former president or hustling for his affection accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of playing politics with the justice system in a predetermined effort to take down the leader of the GOP.

“The American people see this for what it is: a politically motivated prosecution orchestrated by those who want to ‘get’ President Trump,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said

Added Sen. Susan Collins of Maine: “The district attorney, who campaigned on a promise to prosecute Donald Trump, brought these charges precisely because of who the defendant was rather than because of any specified criminal conduct.” 

“These charges never should have been brought in the first place. I expect the conviction to be overturned on appeal,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a lawyer whose relationship with the former president remains rocky after his failed bid for the GOP presidential nomination, also offered a measured condemnation of the case and the verdict (worth reading in full). 

Silent as of early Friday afternoon: Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who was the last Republican standing between Trump and the nomination, and former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate in 2016 and 2020. 

Meanwhile, the Democratic reaction remained somewhat muted as of Friday morning.

The Biden campaign issued a single statement in response to the verdict, from communications director Michael Tyler. The president, making only a passing reference to Trump’s new status as a convicted felon, said in a fundraising appeal posted on X that “there’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box”—a line that echoed a key portion of the statement from Tyler. But otherwise, the Biden campaign has been silent.

Even among other prominent Democrats regularly critical of Trump, the response was relatively muted. 

“No one is above the law. The verdict speaks for itself,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said, in a statement. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, also of New York, offered a three-sentence statement: “America is a nation built upon the rule of law. The jury has spoken and carefully rendered a decision. Responsible leadership requires the verdict to be respected.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on the other hand, issued a sharp rebuke. “Republicans continue to support their convicted felon presidential nominee,” the campaign arm for House Democrats said. “The American people have made it clear they don’t want a criminal as president, yet Republicans continue to be all in on Trump and his MAGA agenda … let’s get rid of these enablers once and for all.”

Some rank-and-file Democrats heaped scorn on Trump and the Republicans post-verdict, ignoring the example set by Biden and their party’s senior leadership. “It’s simple. He broke the law. He got caught. He got convicted,” Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said in comments posted on X. “Is this crime as serious as the others he committed? No. But the rule of law applies to everyone. And this won’t be the last conviction.”

Joe Biden Stays Focused on His Base

Does Joe Biden even want support from disaffected Republicans? His campaign’s actions over the last several months suggest he’s still more interested in placating his base. 

Over on the site today, John McCormack takes a look at the perfunctory approach being taken by the Democratic president to woo the sort of big-name Republicans who have expressed everything from skepticism to opposition to electing Donald Trump again. McCormack reports that Biden and his campaign have made no formal outreach to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, or former Vice President Mike Pence. Here’s more:

The radio silence with the former GOP challengers to his political nemesis is just one signal that Biden and other high-ranking Democrats are more concerned about shoring up support in their own base than they are winning over disaffected Republicans. While Memorial Day is a natural point on the calendar for a general election pivot to the center, the Biden campaign held a press conference on Tuesday outside of Trump’s hush-money trial in Manhattan—the kind of event more appealing to MSNBC viewers than Nikki Haley voters concerned about the rule of law. But perhaps the most significant signal that Democrats intend to run 2024 as a base election is that they’re starting the summer by lurching left on issues ranging from Israel to attacking the Supreme Court.

Pence himself doesn’t begrudge Biden for the lack of outreach, but he is growing increasingly dismayed by what he calls the Democratic Party’s “ongoing capitulation to the American left.”

“Joe Biden won his party’s nomination in 2020, but Bernie Sanders won the party,” Pence told The Dispatch, hitting Biden for “runaway spending, an avalanche of regulation … appeasement from day one of the mullahs in Iran, [and] the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.” He was particularly incensed by Biden’s recent decision to halt a shipment of some weapons to Israel: “Seeing the way that the administration has been going back and forth on what should be unambiguous support of Israel in their fight to defend their country against an existential threat of terrorist Hamas … should be deeply concerning to every American who cares about our standing in the world.”

There’s even some simmering frustration from Robert Schwartz, the leader of a group called Haley Voters for Biden, over the president’s less-than-fulsome courting of these gettable swing voters:

The Biden campaign’s call to the group was “a good kind of first step to actually engage Haley voters and listen to them,” Schwartz said, and he expects more. But the view among Haley voters is that “the clock is ticking,” he added. “I think the longer the Biden campaign waits to aggressively court Haley voters, the more people kind of fall back into their partisan camps.”

Softening support for Israel is perhaps the worst foreign policy mistake Democrats could make if they were trying to court unhappy Republicans. Bungling the border would probably be the worst domestic policy mistake. While Biden and Democrats have been touting a bipartisan immigration deal scuttled by Trump and congressional Republicans, Schwartz said there is frustration among Haley voters that Biden hasn’t taken executive action on immigration. “There’s been all these rumors and reporting about an executive order, and I think Haley voters are like, ‘Let’s quit playing political games and actually do whatever you can to fix the border,’” Schwartz said. “If he’s considering an executive order, he should do it.”

Read the whole thing here.

Notable and Quotable

“Prove it, b—-. You can’t, because it’s a fake and bulls— story your dumb ass is peddling because Biden is hemorrhaging support from Black Americans.”

—Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung in an X post responding to an allegation that a tape exists of the former president saying the n-word.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.