Donald Trump rails against ‘scam’ guilty verdict to depict himself as martyr

Ex-president lashes out at judge and political opponents a day after conviction in ‘hush money’ trial

Former US president has vowed to appeal the guilty verdict on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records.

Donald Trump on Friday lashed out at the “crooked judge” and “scam” verdict that made him the first US president to become a felon, as he tried to blunt the damage to his White House campaign a day after his conviction.

The former president spoke at a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower, his New York home and the same venue he used to launch his outsider push for the White House nine years ago with a now-famous ride down its gilded escalator.

Trump spoke for roughly 30 minutes, restating familiar complaints about the criminal case and his conviction by a jury of 12 fellow New Yorkers on Thursday evening. He appeared aggrieved and obsessed as he delved into in the case minutiae.

The gist was that the Joe Biden administration and its allies had revived a bogus case against the Republican candidate after he launched his bid to return to the White House and took a lead in the polls.


“The public understands what this is. This is a scam,” Trump said, occasionally consulting a slip of paper as he tried to rebut the judgment point by point. “This is all done by Biden and his people,” he added, casting himself as a martyr. He confirmed he would appeal against his conviction.

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Trump insisted he had wanted to testify during his trial, which stemmed from payments he made to buy the silence of porn actor Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election, but was advised not to do so because Justice Juan Merchan was biased against him.

“He looks like an angel,” Trump said of Justice Merchan. “But he’s a devil.”

Looking on were dozens of loyalists, including Trump’s son, Eric, and daughter-in-law, Lara, as well as attorney Alina Habba and longtime Trump Organization executive Matthew Calamari. His wife, Melania, was not visible. Scores of supporters chanted “Free Trump” and other slogans from behind a police barricade across the street.

Soon after Trump concluded many supporters appeared to have melted away, replaced by tourists, influencers and curiosity-seekers. There was no apparent hint of the violence or disorder that some feared might follow a guilty verdict.

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The jury’s decision on Thursday evening, after a day-and-a-half of deliberation, cast the 2024 presidential campaign – and the US – into uncharted waters. Trump was found guilty on all 34 criminal counts, a historic development that will inevitably change the contours and calculus of the campaign.

Trump’s sentencing is set for July 11th – just days before he is scheduled to attend the Republican national convention in Wisconsin to be formally declared the party’s presidential candidate.

The sentence could restrict his freedom to travel to campaign events ahead of the November 5th election.

New Yorkers clashed after the Trump verdict as tensions ran high. Video: Getty

Some political strategists believe the conviction will damage Trump in the eyes of undecided voters who could decide the outcome of November’s election.

Mr Biden’s campaign sought to push that message on Friday.

“America just witnessed a confused, desperate, and defeated Donald Trump ramble about his own personal grievances and lie about the American justice system, leaving anyone watching with one obvious conclusion: This man cannot be president of the United States,” said Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communications director, just after the press conference.

Trump delivers remarks at Trump Tower in New York on Friday. Photograph: Doug Mills/New York Times

The former president’s team, by contrast, appears to be casting him as an American martyr, pursued and victimised by a corrupt system.

The Trump campaign on Friday morning announced it had received almost $35mn in small-dollar donations since the verdict – evidence, they said, that ordinary voters were outraged by the trial and verdict.

Trump suggested it was more evidence that he was winning, while the verdict was proof Democrats knew they were losing. “The only way they think they can win this election is by doing exactly what they’re doing right now: win in the courts because they can’t win at the ballot box,” he said. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024