Trump responds to his guilty verdict by falsely blasting a ‘rigged trial’ and attacking star witness

By MICHELLE L. PRICE and JILL COLVIN (Associated Press)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump attacked the judge and the star witness in his criminal hush money trial and again tried to undermine New York’s criminal justice system on Friday while seeking to turn his conviction on 34 felony charges into fuel — and not an impediment — to his bid to return to the White House.

Trump addressed reporters at his namesake tower in Manhattan Friday, returning to campaigning a day after he was convicted of trying to illegally influence the 2016 election by falsifying business records to hide money paid to a porn actor who claimed they had sex.

The Republican ex-president, as defiant as ever, argued the verdict was illegitimate and driven by politics and sought to downplay the facts underlying the case.

“It’s not hush money. It’s a nondisclosure agreement. Totally legal, totally common,” he said.

In a message aimed to galvanize his supporters, he cast himself as a martyr, suggesting that if it could happen to him, “They can do this to anyone.”

He said he was “very honored to be involved” because “somebody has to it it.”

“I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to save our country and save our Constitution. I don’t mind,” he said. “So we will continue the fight.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump Tower, Friday, May 31, 2024, in New York. A day after a New York jury found Donald Trump guilty of 34 felony charges, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee addressed the conviction and likely attempt to cast his campaign in a new light. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson) 

President Joe Biden, responding to the verdict at the White House, said the former president “was given every opportunity to defend himself” and blasted his rhetoric.

“It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this is rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” Biden said.

While the guilty verdict appeared to motivate Trump’s loyal base of supporters, including those who began pouring donations into his campaign, it’s unclear if any of this will help him with independent voters who’ll be decisive in the November election.

No former president or presumptive party nominee has ever faced a felony conviction or the prospect of prison time, and Trump is expected to keep his legal troubles central to his campaign. He has long argued without evidence the four indictments against him were orchestrated by Democratic President Joe Biden to try to keep him out of the White House. The hush money case was filed by local prosecutors in Manhattan who don’t work for the Justice Department or any White House office.

Trump, who has painted himself as pro-law enforcement and even talked of how officers might handle suspects roughly, has spent the last two years attacking parts of the criminal justice system as it applies to him and raising questions about the honesty and motives of agents and prosecutors.

After weeks of primarily speaking from an aging courthouse in Manhattan, Trump chose to return to campaign mode Friday in the atrium of his Trump Tower, the brass and rose marble lobby where he descended his golden escalator to announce his 2016 campaign nine years ago next month.

“We’re going to fight,” Trump said. “I’m wired in such a way that a lot of people would have gone away a long time ago.”

When Trump emerged from the courtroom immediately after the verdict Thursday, he appeared tense and deeply angry, his words pointed and clipped. But at Trump Tower on Friday, he appeared more relaxed, especially as his speech went on and he defaulted into his standard rally mode, complete with acted-out stories. He did not take any questions from reporters.

Despite the historic ruling, a convicted Trump sounded much the same as a pre-convicted Trump, as he delivered what amounted to a truncated version of his usual rally speech.

In his disjointed remarks, Trump initially started attacking Biden on immigration and tax policies before pivoting to his case, growling that he was threatened with jail time if he violated a gag order. He picked apart intricate parts of the case and trial proceedings as unfair, making false statements and misrepresentations as he did so.