Joe Biden calls Donald Trump a ‘convicted felon’ in his first campaign event after the jury’s guilty verdict

The president says his predecessor is ‘unhinged’ due to his refusal to accept defeat in the 2020 election

Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden in White Plains (New York) before a campaign event in Greenwich (Connecticut).Craig Hudson (REUTERS)
Miguel Jiménez

When it comes to speaking about Donald Trump, Joe Biden has been seeking a balance between his institutional role as president and his partisan role as candidate. From the White House he has been cautious in his assessment of the verdict that declared his rival guilty of 34 felony counts, but on the campaign trail ahead of the November 5 election he has chosen to be more forceful. On Monday, at an event held in Greenwich (Connecticut), he openly called his predecessor a “convicted felon” and warned that a second term for his predecessor would be more dangerous than the first.

The president and Democratic candidate has acknowledged that Trump’s conviction represents an unprecedented political earthquake. “Friends, the campaign entered unchartered territory last week. For the first time in American history, a former president that is a convicted felon is now seeking the office of the presidency. But as disturbing as that is, more damaging is the all-out assault Donald Trump is making on the American system of justice,” he told a crowd at the campaign event that took place on the same day that his son Hunter Biden underwent the first day of his trial on gun charges.

One of the persisting doubts among Democrats was whether to systematically refer to Trump in the remaining five months of the campaign as a “convicted felon.” Monday’s speech was the first time that Biden said it, although the Democratic rank-and-file had already begun to define him as such. The president, however, avoided using the term when he spoke at the White House on Friday. That day he instead insisted that the verdict proves that “no one is above the law.” He also said that it is “reckless and dangerous for anyone to say that [the trial] is rigged just because they don’t like the outcome.”

On Monday, the president revisited some of the topics he has covered in the past, such as the threat that, in his opinion, Trump poses to democracy. It was one of the successful pivots of his campaign in the 2022 midterm elections, and in a way, it was also at the core of his message in the 2020 presidential elections. Biden has shown signs that he wants to insist on that message.

“Here is what is becoming clearer and clearer every day. The threat that Trump poses would be greater in a second term than it was in his first term. This isn’t the same Trump who got elected in 2016. He’s worse. Something snapped in this guy for real after the 2020 election. It’s literally driving him crazy (...) Now he’s running again. And he’s not only obsessed with losing in 2020, he is clearly unhinged.” Asked if he thought there would be violence if he lost again, he said “it depends,” noting that Trump has called the convicted insurrectionists who are now in jail “patriots” and pledged to pardon them if he gets elected.

“Throughout this campaign Trump has made it clear he is running to exact for revenge. Now after his criminal convictions it’s clear he’s worried about preserving his freedoms,” the president added.

Trump will be sentenced on July 11 by Judge Juan Merchan. The 34 felony counts of falsifying business records are punishable by up to four years in prison. It is not yet clear whether prosecutors will seek prison and even less clear whether the judge would impose such a sentence. For first-time offenders like Trump, probation is the most likely option, especially while the former president appeals the verdict.

Besides criticizing his predecessor for his criminal problems, Biden also pointed out in his event that Trump is “selling bibles and gold slippers and selling his presidency to the highest bidder.” He criticized the former president’s promises to oil industry leaders in exchange for them making contributions to his campaign. At a recent event at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, the former president asked oil company executives to contribute $1 billion to his campaign. Following reports that Trump had asked for that sum of money in exchange for rolling back environmental regulations, speeding approvals of drilling permits and leases, and preserving or improving tax benefits enjoyed by the oil and gas industry if he returns to the White House, several Democratic senators opened an investigation. “Such an obvious policies-for-money transaction reeks of cronyism and corruption,” their letters said.

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