How Trump and his allies are spinning his historic guilty verdict

Former President Donald Trump and his allies immediately tried to flip the script after a New York jury found him guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records Thursday.

Most of their pushback on the airwaves and social media echoed the points they were making as the trial was ongoing: They felt that Judge Juan Merchan was conflicted, the jury was made up of liberals and the case amounted to election interference to boost President Joe Biden.

As the dust from the historic criminal verdict began to settle, Trump and his backers sought to flood the zone to insist the system was rigged against him the whole time.

“We didn’t do a thing wrong,” Trump said outside the courthouse Thursday after the unanimous guilty verdict. “I’m a very innocent man.”

Here’s how Trump and his allies went on the offensive:

Attack the judge

To a person, Trump and his many defenders took aim at Merchan, the judge presiding over the case, because of a small donation he made to Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020. It echoed an attack they levied against him throughout the trial.

“This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt,” Trump said after the verdict outside the Manhattan courthouse, adding Merchan “should have never been allowed to try this case.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is in the running to be Trump’s running mate, said on X that the trial was “conducted by an openly pro-Biden judge,” while Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a Newsmax interview Thursday that Merchan “should have worn a Biden campaign hat while he sat on the bench.”

Merchan donated $15 to Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020 and $20 more to progressive organizations, all through the donation platform ActBlue.

Trump and his supporters also said Merchan should have recused himself because of his daughter’s employment with a Democratic-aligned campaign organization, Authentic Campaigns. The state courts ethics committee gave Merchan guidance that he did not need to recuse himself from the case because it did not involve his family or family business.

Liberal jury

Another common refrain from Trump and his boosters was that the jury — and even the pool of prospective jurors in the beginning — was simply too liberal for him to get a fair trial because Manhattan overwhelmingly backed Biden in 2020.

“It’s a rigged trial, a disgrace,” Trump said Thursday. “They wouldn’t give us a venue change. We were at 5% or 6% in this district in this area. This was a rigged disgraceful trial.”

“12 liberal jurors don’t decide who the next president is,” Republican Rep. Jim Banks, the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate in Indiana, posted on X. “We the people do.”

“The partisan slant of this jury pool shows why we ought to litigate politics at the ballot box and not in the courtroom,” Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, a potential Trump running mate, said on X.

Trump’s team was directly involved in the jury selection process, and Todd Blanche, Trump’s lead attorney, challenged only one juror. The challenge was denied by Merchan, who said Trump’s team did not have enough cause for it. Merchan also denied an effort to change the venue, which was seen as a long shot, one week before the start of the trial.

Election interference 

At the heart of their pushback, pro-Trump forces said the ultimate purpose of the conviction was to boost Biden’s electoral chances, as well as those of other Democrats.

“We just witnessed the most egregious example of election interference and an outright mockery of the rule of law in the 246-year history of our Republic,” Kari Lake, the Trump-backed Senate candidate in Arizona, said in a statement. “This entire process right down to the verdict itself has been nothing but a shameful political stunt.”

Former President Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his New York trial Thursday.Seth Wenig / Pool via AFP – Getty Images

In his Newsmax interview, Cruz said the whole point of the criminal proceedings was so that Democrats could ultimately refer to Trump as a “convicted felon.”

“You and I are going to hear those words repeated by Democrats in the corporate media about 1 billion times between now and Election Day,” he said. “That was the whole point is to scream, ‘felon, felon, felon, felon.’ This was politics and not law.”

Biden’s involvement

Hand in hand with the argument that the case amounted to election interference was the accusation that Biden himself was calling the shots.

“Joe Biden and his leftwing allies engaged in election interference to prosecute their top political opponent on bogus charges,” Bernie Moreno, the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate in Ohio, posted on X.

There is no evidence suggesting the White House was involved with the Manhattan district attorney’s decision to bring the charges, and Biden kept his distance from the trial. His campaign sometimes jumped on developments, however, including holding a media event outside the Manhattan courthouse this week.

In a statement after the verdict, Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communications director, said: “Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain.”

“But today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality,” he continued. “There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.”

It’ll get overturned on appeal

Trump allies were universally confident that the verdict would be overturned upon appeal.

“I have no doubt that this affront to justice will be successfully appealed and President Trump will be cleared, but we cannot ignore Joe Biden and his allies’ reckless weaponization of our nation’s justice system and the long-term damage his malice has caused,” former Rep. Mike Rogers, the Trump-backed Senate candidate in Michigan, said in a statement.

“This conviction should be immediately reversed upon appeal, and this legal tyranny will be summarily rejected by the American people on November 5th,” Lake said in her statement Thursday.

Invoking George Soros

Republicans were quick to point out that liberal megadonor George Soros is a supporter of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

“You have a Soros-backed DA,” Trump said.

Soros donated to the Color of Change PAC, which supported progressive prosecutors across the country, including Bragg in his 2021 campaign. CNBC reported that people familiar with the donation said it was not earmarked to support Brag specifically or to pressure him in any way.

In his statement after the verdict, Bragg said Trump went to great lengths to violate the law and “lie” to boost his 2016 campaign.

“Donald Trump is guilty of repeatedly and fraudulently falsifying business records in a scheme to conceal damaging information from American voters during the 2016 presidential election,” he said. “Over the course of the past several weeks, a jury of 12 every day New Yorkers was presented with overwhelming evidence — including invoices, checks, bank statements, audio recordings, phone logs, text messages, and direct testimony from 22 witnesses — that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Trump illegally falsified 34 New York business records.”

America is a ‘banana republic’

Trump allies made it clear they believed the verdict represented America’s decline into something unrecognizable, labeling it a “banana republic” or a “s—hole.”

“The Democrats have succeeded in their years long attempt to turn America into a third-world s—hole,” his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., wrote on social media. “November 5 is our last chance to save it.”

“This verdict is representative of a banana republic, not a democracy,” Moreno wrote on X.

Others took aim at New York, a Democratic stronghold that is often maligned in redder jurisdictions.

“New York is a liberal s— hole,” wrote Banks, the Indiana Senate candidate.

This is good for Trump!

Never mind that some voters might be rankled at the idea of voting for a candidate found guilty of felony charges — Trump and allies see that the political backdrop of the trial will help them energize their supporters and possibly even convert some folks on the fence.

“The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people, and they know what happened here, and everybody knows what happened here,” Trump said Thursday.

“May 30th, 2024 might be remembered as the day Donald J. Trump won the 2024 Presidential Election,” Trump’s son Eric Trump posted on X.

“Voters will convict our two-tiered justice system in November,” Banks wrote.

Most surveys have shown a close race between Trump and Biden, but Trump has had several strong showings in battleground surveys and generally is polling better now than he has at any point during his previous runs for office. And in 2016 and 2020, he outperformed his polling numbers.

A fundraising bonanza

While it will be months until Americans know the results of the fall election, the fundraising boost provided by the conviction will be realized in the hours to come. And many Trump allies and officials have already boasted of the success.

“The bad news is today the Biden leftists in New York made a mockery of our criminal justice system,” Rubio wrote. “The good news is Americans have sent Trump over $50 million since this travesty and his deranged enemies just elected Trump for President again!”

He followed up by posting a link to a fundraising page.