Trump Rails Against His Guilty Verdict, Claiming ‘Sick People’ Are Behind His Prosecution

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It was billed as an event where Donald J. Trump would deliver remarks about his criminal conviction.

Instead, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee gave a discursive mini-rally on Friday filled with misleading statements about what had taken place inside a Manhattan courtroom a day earlier and familiar campaign attacks against President Biden and his Democratic allies.

“This is a case where if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone,” Mr. Trump said of the prosecutors from the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, who won a conviction against him. “These are bad people. These are in many cases, I believe, sick people.”

Then, he began to go back and forth between the trial and the standard stump speech he uses to broadly portray immigrants crossing the border as violent, mentally ill criminals.

After seven weeks of holding the media’s gaze from the start of jury selection until the reading of his guilty verdict, Mr. Trump on Friday spoke and spoke and spoke in the lobby of Trump Tower, jumping from one topic to another for 33 minutes in front of the photographers and television cameras gathered in a crescent shape around his podium. A few dozen supporters, all of them employees who work in the building, flanked his other side.

Mr. Trump complained about the charges against him and then about his own lawyers, whom he verbally brutalized privately throughout the trial. “Falsification of business records in the first degree — it sounds so bad,” Mr. Trump said. “I said, ‘Wow.’ And even my own lawyers, I get very upset with them, because they don’t say what it is.”

He again claimed that he had wanted to testify on his own behalf but said he ultimately opted not to, after concluding he that would have faced many questions aimed at catching him in a lie.

“I would have loved to have testified; to this day I would have liked to have testified. But you would have been — you would have said something out of whack, like, ‘It was a beautiful, sunny day,’ and it was actually raining out,” Mr. Trump said.

He smeared witnesses whom he never named, insisting that he remains bound by a gag order that prevents him from doing so. He criticized Michael D. Cohen, the key witness against him, without naming him, but also insisted he was an “effective lawyer” and that he wasn’t a “fixer,” as he’s been described.

But Mr. Cohen did almost no legal work for Mr. Trump during the period of time he was being paid money that was logged as legal expenses. Those expenses were actually a reimbursement for a hush-money payment to a porn star, prosecutors had argued in the trial. The jury agreed.

The setting on Friday signaled a kind of shift as Mr. Trump campaigns to return to the White House. Though he has held a handful of rallies while on trial, Mr. Trump’s public remarks for much of the past six weeks were limited to a drab, sterile courtroom hallway that emphasized his status as a criminal defendant.

The return to the marble and brass décor of Trump Tower and to lines from his stump speech felt like an announcement — that his first criminal trial was over, and that he was now free to return to the trail, albeit as a convicted felon. At the start of his remarks, Mr. Trump strode past the escalator that had carried him, in 2015, to his campaign announcement, a descent and a decision that set up the events at the heart of his conviction.

Mr. Trump, who has been indicted four times in four different jurisdictions, described himself as being tarred because he is fighting for the country, once again portraying himself as being the victim of political persecution.

“I’m doing something for our Constitution,” he said. “It’s very important, far beyond me. And this can’t be allowed to happen to other presidents, should never be allowed to happen in the future.”

Mr. Trump used the opportunity to delve into territory that may be less politically advantageous for him to highlight: the investigation conducted by a congressional committee about his behavior in the lead up to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. His advisers generally prefer he not discuss the events surrounding that attack by a pro-Trump mob, which they see as a political risk.

Mr. Trump at one point talked about the trial through the lens of Christian morality, arguing that witnesses whose accounts backed his were “literally crucified” by the judge, whom Mr. Trump said “looks like an angel, but he’s really a devil.”

Mr. Trump cast his conviction as part of a larger moral question facing the country, after a prosecution that he and his supporters — and, privately, some Democrats — view as flawed. “This is bigger than Trump. This is bigger than me,” he said. “This is bigger than my presidency.”

Mr. Trump often suggests that something he has been accused of doing is something that many other people have done as well, and he leaned on that argument again on Friday.

“I could go through the books of any business person in the city, and I could find things that in theory, I guess, ‘Let’s indict him, let’s destroy his life,’” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump said he would appeal the verdict on several grounds, a decision previewed by his lawyer, Todd Blanche, the day before. “We’ll be appealing this scam,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll be appealing it on many different things.”

Less than 24 hours after a jury made history by making Mr. Trump the first former president to be a convicted felon, Mr. Trump sought to downplay the importance of the verdict. He concluded his remarks by suggesting the only judgment that mattered to him was the one at the ballot box.

“Remember, Nov. 5 is the most important day in the history of our country,” Mr. Trump said. “Thank you.”



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