Biden’s Campaign Trolls Trump Outside the Courthouse, in a First

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After first ignoring former President Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial, then beginning to make sly insinuations about how he was “free on Wednesdays,” the court’s day off, President Biden’s campaign has jumped in with a stunt designed to emphasize the unprecedented situation of a major party’s presidential candidate awaiting a felony verdict.

The Biden campaign on Tuesday held a news conference outside the Manhattan courthouse with Robert De Niro, the actor whose voice narrates the campaign’s latest ad, as well as Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone, two former U.S. Capitol Police officers who have attacked Mr. Trump over his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Mr. De Niro said that Mr. Trump had engaged in a “coward’s violence” after the 2020 election.

“He directs the mob to do his dirty work for him,” he said.

The news conference was the sort of thing the Trump campaign would have done from the beginning if the political situation were reversed.

The Biden campaign has for weeks kept to the letter of the president’s directive to not address the criminal charges Mr. Trump faces or offer commentary on the trial, but its decision to dispatch surrogates to the Manhattan courthouse while the former president’s lawyer was delivering his closing argument was hardly subtle.

Though Mr. De Niro and the two former police officers did not address Mr. Trump’s Manhattan trial — he is charged with falsifying business records related to a hush-money payment to a porn star before the 2016 election — they sought to draw attention to his actions that led to the events of Jan. 6, which are the subject of another federal criminal case pending against Mr. Trump.

Mr. De Niro also mentioned the civil case last year in which a jury found Mr. Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll, a former magazine writer. In January, the former president was ordered to pay $83.3 million in damages to Ms. Carroll. The Biden campaign has rarely discussed that case or the verdict against Mr. Trump.

“Just a couple of blocks from here a jury found him liable for sexual abuse,” Mr. De Niro said.

The Biden campaign sought to argue that bringing Mr. De Niro and the two Capitol Police officers to Mr. Trump’s trial was not a commentary on the case but on the news media scrum gathered to cover it.

“We’re not here today because of what’s going on over there,” Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director, told the assembled reporters outside the courthouse. “We’re here today because you all are here.”

With a number of demonstrators stationed in a protest area outside the courthouse, many of the news conferences throughout the trial have been met with some level of heckling. A throng of Trump supporters shouted at Mr. De Niro and the former Capitol Police officers as they appeared downtown, calling him an elitist and them traitors.

Mr. Trump has sought to tie together all four of his pending criminal cases and has argued baselessly that Mr. Biden is behind them all. In addition to the Manhattan trial, he is charged in separate federal cases over his handling of classified documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, along with a Georgia case related to his push to reverse that year’s results.

The Trump campaign quickly jumped on the Biden news conference.

“The Biden folks have finally done it,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the campaign. “After months of saying that politics had nothing to do with this trial, they showed up and made it with a campaign event.”

He characterized Mr. De Niro’s involvement as a desperate reach for a campaign that needed to lift Mr. Biden’s poll numbers, referring to him as a “washed-up actor” and arguing that Biden campaign staff members at the news conference had sensed it was a bad idea to stand in the proverbial shadow of the courthouse.

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, said the Biden campaign was “making a political mockery” of the criminal case with its appearance.

Asked about the Biden campaign’s contention that it had held a news conference at the courthouse only because the national news media had been stationed there for weeks, Karoline Leavitt, the campaign’s press secretary, responded simply: “They’re pathetic.”



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