Trump Fought the Law

trump trial
At a glance, it would appear at this hour that Team Biden and Democrats, on one hand, and Team Trump and Republicans, on the other, have both decided that the trial and its outcome is a winner for them, politically speaking. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
John Heilemann
June 2, 2024

For about 24 hours after the verdict in Donald Trump’s criminal trial came down late Thursday afternoon, it appeared that an achingly familiar pattern was taking hold in the aftermath of an event with which no one in politics today (or ever) had even the faintest familiarity. Within minutes, Trump was in front of the TV cameras at the courthouse, trashing the trial as “rigged” and “disgraceful,” Judge Juan Merchan as “conflicted” and “corrupt,” and Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg as “Soros-backed,” blaming the Biden administration for the whole shebang, and saying of himself, à la Billy Joel, “I’m a very innocent man.” As if on cue, Republican elected officials at every level and of every stripe, along with the MAGA media elite, shifted immediately into hyperdrive, echoing Trump’s talking points in prepared statements and on right-wing cable news. Most of what they said was false, much was inflammatory, and some of it was downright dangerous. But the Republican message was strikingly uniform and the party clearly unified.

Not so the Democrats. President Biden offered not a word for public consumption. His campaign put out an anodyne written statement under the name of its comms director about how the verdict showed that “no one is above the law” (which, needless to say, is true enough, but also a cliché so bland it barely qualifies as pablum). Few Democratic electeds could be found on cable, and those who did poke their heads above the parapet spouted bromides that made Team Biden’s statement seem like uncut Tabasco. So it was all but inevitable that, by Friday morning, press coverage of the immediate political fallout from the verdict framed the narrative in terms that were guaranteed to make countless foreheads throb and not a few heads explode: Republicans on the warpath, Democrats in disarray.