For Trump, a Deflating Blow, and Then a Bounce Back


The Donald J. Trump who emerged from a drab courtroom in Lower Manhattan yesterday afternoon did so glumly, shuffling into the hallway to speak for less than two minutes. He seemed, like much of the nation, to be still absorbing the gut punch of his conviction on 34 felony charges.

That was Desultory Donald.

Nineteen hours later, it was a different Donald J. Trump who held forth for 33 minutes from a lectern in the lobby of the tower that bears his name. He’d slept on it, and things turned out not to be all bad, he seemed to suggest. “Let me give you the good news,” he said, picking up a piece of paper to read out the campaign’s boffo fund-raising numbers since the verdict came down ($39 million in 10 hours, he said).

“Does anybody read The Daily Mail?” he asked at one point. It had apparently published a new poll that “has Trump up six points in the last 12 hours,” he chirped. “Who thought this could happen?”

Americans were still processing the jolting news of Mr. Trump’s conviction on Friday. But Mr. Trump himself, a candidate of unusual personality and sometimes impenetrable psyche, seemed to be willing himself forward, moving from downcast to defiant within a day.

It helped that he was back in his marble bunker, surrounded by creature comforts. Eric and Lara Trump, his son and daughter-in-law, stood behind a red velvet rope with dozens of supporters (many of whom work in the building). Employees at the Gucci store in the building’s lobby pressed their faces against the glass pane, agog at the spectacle. Secret Service agents pushed their fingers into their earpieces. New York City police officers milled around in their caps and starched white shirts. A doorman in a three-piece suit and a bow tie watched with interest. A forest of cameras and lighting rigs pointed toward Mr. Trump.

Outside, a “Trump or Death 2024” flag, roughly the size of a Honda Civic, billowed in front of the Prada store across the avenue.

Perhaps not since Mr. Trump sparred with reporters about a white supremacists’ march in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 had such mania descended on this lobby. It has been Mr. Trump’s most reliable redoubt. He kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign here. After the “Access Hollywood” scandal broke and his nascent political career seemed at an end, he strode through this lobby to seek the embrace and reassurance of supporters out on the street.

And so he seemed, if not in peak form, somewhat revivified on Friday morning. He recounted for the room, and perhaps for himself, the gravity of his predicament. “Think of it,” he said, closing his eyes for a moment. “As far as the trial itself? It was very unfair.”

Not just unfair, but biblical, he suggested, beginning to warm up. Certain witnesses were “literally crucified” by a judge who “looks like an angel, but he’s really a devil.” One witness, Mr. Trump added, “went through hell.” His amen corner behind the red velvet rope nodded solemnly.

So what if there was some funny business with this bookkeeping, he asked, before rattling off a series of events that one might have read about in his beloved New York Post. There was a man with a machete in a McDonald’s somewhere yesterday, he said. Plus, all the “little things,” he added later, seemingly alluding to something he read, “like our kids can’t have Little League games anymore because you have tents and you have migrants living on the field.”

Stifled laughter rippled through the room as he riffed about his old age (“I don’t feel 77”). But as always with Mr. Trump, the performance can turn abruptly apocalyptic. In the next breath, he said, almost offhandedly, that we’re all “living in a fascist state.”

Mr. Trump scattered blame far and wide for his problems. The nation is corrupt. President Biden is a “Manchurian candidate.” Immigrants speaking “languages unknown” are coming across the border and forming an army, he said, pulling the false claim back only partially. “Now, I don’t think that would happen, right?”

By the end, he didn’t seem all that angry after all. There was something almost zippy about his performance.

“It’s my honor to be doing this, it really is,” he said, before quickly adding: “It’s a very unpleasant thing, to be honest, but it’s a great, great honor.”

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