Trump to spend months telling us he is a defender of democracy and a champion against Biden corruption

US president says ‘the American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed’

Former US president Donald Trump speaking at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York City on Friday following a guilty verdict in his hush-money trial. A New York jury found him guilty on Thursday of 34 charges

Friday came: it was morning again in America, and inside Trump Tower the 45th president of the United States responded to the guilty verdict in his Manhattan “hush money” trial by doing what he was prevented from doing since proceedings began on April 15th: speaking freely, venting and cutting loose.

He ditched the teleprompter, which meant he was no longer harnessed to his advisers. He once again spoke in defiance of the gag order placed on him by Justice Juan Merchan. Not for the first time his name dominated the city’s flagship morning newspapers and the vast edifice of Trump Tower acted like a gigantic magnet for television network vans and cameras, security and media paraphernalia.

Trump Tower has become a symbolic venue for its proprietor: this was where he descended on the escalator in 2015 to announce to a bemused and sceptical audience that, yes, he was running for president. Oceans have passed under the bridge since then.

The cameras were there once more as Trump walked past that same escalator and spoke for just over 30 minutes in a stream-of-consciousness delivery that moved from the specific injustices and absurdities of the criminal case as he saw them to the themes familiar from his campaign rallies: immigration, the border, the economy.


It became apparent that what was taking place was an undrafted live version of what will become the central tenet of his campaign in the summer months: that Donald Trump is the last defender of democracy and the people’s champion against the invidious corruption of the Democratic Party.

“We are living in a fascist state,” he said. He called his political rival, Joe Biden, “the dumbest president we’ve ever had, he’s a Manchurian candidate” and told the gathering that “the judge was a tyrant”.

“Nobody’s ever seen anything like it,” he said of his trial.

“We had a failed DA,” he said, in reference to Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the hush money case against him. ”Crime is rampant in New York. In McDonald’s yesterday you had a man hitting ‘em up with a machete. Whoever can imagine even a machete wielded in a store where they are eating and Bragg is down watching a trial on what they call ‘falsifying business records’. That sounds so bad. You know, that sounds so bad. It’s only a misdemeanour but to me it sounds so bad…I’ve never had that before.”

The speech – billed a press conference but he took no questions – was another audacious criticism of both the trial and the judge who has yet to sentence him. But the immediate effect of the verdict was to energise and mobilise Trump supporters nationally. He reported that $39 million (€36m) had flooded into his campaign in the 10 hours since the jury’s unanimous guilty verdict on all 34 counts was read out. It emerged that searches for Trump on Google jumped by 3,200 per cent overnight.

“These are bad people. These are in many cases, I believe, sick people. We will continue to fight. It is very simple. Our country is in serious trouble. Little things like our kids can’t have a little league game any more because you have tents and migrants living on the fields. People are taking over our luxury hotels – migrants – yet our great veterans are living on the streets, like dogs. But migrants are living in luxury hotels in cities all over our country in cities run by Democrats. So it’s my honour to be doing this, it really is. It’s a very unpleasant thing but it is a great, great honour. November 5th [election day], remember, is the most important day in the history of our country.”

As the fact checkers rushed to parse his speech they may have been unanimous in deciding that that closing line was indisputable. Overnight the Republican response to the conviction had become a cohesive narrative: that the decision was the inevitable result of a trial which from the beginning had been a concerted and premeditated plan to “get Donald Trump”, as Byron Donalds, the Republican congressman from Florida, put it on Friday morning.

“Alvin Bragg ran for office saying he was going to get Donald Trump. Not that there was some specific crime to look at,” he told CNN. “The jury are hearing from a prosecution team put together just to get Donald Trump.”

At lunchtime on Friday President Joe Biden gave what came close to a retort to his predecessor’s address in New York.

“The American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed. 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,” he told reporters at the White House. “It was a process that Donald Trump’s attorney was part of. The jury heard five weeks of evidence.

“Now he’ll be given the opportunity as he should to appeal that decision. That’s how the American system of justice works. And 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. The justice system should be respected and we should never allow anyone to tear it down.”

Nevertheless, it is obvious that the verdict has given the Trump campaign another clear point of attack, something which their Democratic opponents have lacked – and that has been reflected in poll returns that are leaving their strategists uneasy. And the relatively quick jury verdict, reached after two days’ of deliberations, means Trump is now free to campaign with vigour ahead of a scheduled CNN debate with Biden on June 27th.

So ends one of the strangest and most significant legal trials in US history. The court building in lower Manhattan will return to administering more mundane and everyday justice to everyday citizens. What of the 12 not-at-all angry men and women? Although they are free to speak out and conduct interviews if they want to, who would wish to reveal their identity after being part of a jury that has found Donald Trump guilty?

The presumption on Friday was that the 12 members and six alternates would have begun to field offers from media outlets to tell their story. If their identity is leaked and they are subject to threats, they can report that to New York police, who will pass the information on to a threat-assessment team. And if it is deemed that they require protection then it will be given. As jury service goes it has been a heavy burden on those individuals.

The sentencing hearing for Donald Trump has been fixed for 10am on July 11th, just four days before the beginning of the Republican convention in Milwaukee where he will become the official presidential nominee of the Grand Old Party.