Convicted felon Trump rails against Biden and ‘fascist’ America at unhinged news conference

Trump is scheduled to be sentenced for his crimes on July 11

Andrew Feinberg,Alex Woodward
Friday 31 May 2024 20:43
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Donald Trump gave an unhinged speech at Trump Tower the morning after he became the first criminally convicted US president, railing against the “fascist state” and attacking his enemies, including the judge who oversaw his hush-money trial and the witnesses who testified against him.

Speaking to an audience of reporters and supporters in the lobby of his eponymous Fifth Avenue skyscraper in New York City – the building where he formed the conspiracy that figured prominently in the evidence against him – Trump falsely claimed that the president, Joe Biden, could put an end to the case that was brought against him by New York County district attorney Alvin Bragg in a New York court.

“We have a president and a group of fascists that don’t want to do anything about it. Because they could, right now, today – he could stop it – but he’s not,” said Trump.

Trump also hit out at the judge who oversaw his trial and who will sentence him for his crimes on July 11, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, calling him the “devil” and labeling him “highly conflicted” because the judge’s daughter works in Democratic politics. He falsely claimed that Mr Biden – not the judge – was responsible for the gag order against him.

“I’m the leading person for president and I’m under a gag order, by a man that can’t put two sentences together, given by a court, and they are in total conjunction with the White House and the DOJ [Department of Justice], just so you understand. This is all done by Biden and his people,” he said.

Trump continued attacking Mr Biden as “dumb” and “dishonest”, while accusing him – without evidence – of being a “Manchurian candidate”, and repeating multiple lies about the president’s family.

“We’re living in a fascist state,” said Trump.

The gag order in question prohibits Trump from attacking jurors and trial witnesses as well as the prosecutors who tried the case (except for Mr Bragg) and family members of prosecutors and court staff.

He has already been fined thousands of dollars for violating the gag order, and was warned by Judge Merchan that he could be jailed for further violations.

But Trump appeared to flout those warnings when he attacked one witness – his former attorney, Michael Cohen. Trump stated that he was not allowed to mention his name even as he described him in detail, insisting that Cohen was “a sleazebag” who performed work for him as a “fully-accredited lawyer”.

He also complained that his only defense witness, conservative attorney Robert Costello, had been “literally crucified”, and spoke at length in defense of one person who was not a witness at his trial: longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

The ex-president falsely claimed that Weisselberg, who is currently incarcerated at the Rikers Island jail after he pleaded guilty to perjuring himself during a separate civil trial involving Trump’s business empire, was only behind bars because he “made a deal” under threat from prosecutors who wanted him to testify against his longtime boss.

“This man was told you're gonna get 15 years in jail if you don't give up Trump, and he was told that you’re gonna get 15 years in jail. And he made a plea deal because he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life, and he was told that viciously,” said Trump, who offered no evidence for his false claims but nonetheless insisted that Mr Weisselberg’s plight shows that Americans are “living in a fascist state”.

He also claimed that he wanted to testify at his trial, but said he did not because he would have been charged with perjury.

A crowd of Trump supporters, counterprotesters and news media gather behind police barricades in front of Trump Tower on May 31
A crowd of Trump supporters, counterprotesters and news media gather behind police barricades in front of Trump Tower on May 31 (Getty)

Steps away from where Trump descended his skyscraper’s golden escalators to launch his 2016 campaign for president, and from the building where he conspired to unlawfully influence that election’s outcome, Trump delivered his rambling address to only a select group of reporters and allies.

Outnumbered by news cameras and journalists, a few dozen supporters rallied behind police barricades set up across the street. One waved a massive “TRUMP OR DEATH” banner above the crowd, while a Trump impersonator circled the block in a beat-up limousine leading a caravan with pickup trucks slathered in Trump paraphernalia.

Another truck blasted Trump’s favorite song, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”, past a crowd of onlookers and surprised tourists who stopped in droves to snap photos while walking down a block that is host to high-end retailers such as Prada and Chanel.

Another group of counterprotesters across the street chanted “GUILTY” while waiting for Trump to leave.

“We’ve been protesting Trump for seven years, and I want to be here to see that justice is at least starting to visit him,” said Kathleen Zea, who hails from Trump’s old borough of Queens. “He’s been able to act with impunity here in New York.”

His conviction gave her a “renewed faith in our system” after Trump had “undermined it for so long”, she said.

Donald Trump delivers remarks inside Trump Tower on May 31, one day after he was convicted of 34 felonies relating to a hush-money scheme cooked up to influence the 2016 election
Donald Trump delivers remarks inside Trump Tower on May 31, one day after he was convicted of 34 felonies relating to a hush-money scheme cooked up to influence the 2016 election (Getty)

The disgraced former president’s appearance, which his campaign had billed as a press conference, permitted no questions from the assembled press, and it wrapped after more than 30 minutes of Trumpian grievance-airing, after which he exited the room to applause from the supporters his campaign had summoned.

The bizarre spectacle came less than 24 hours after a jury of 12 New Yorkers found him guilty on 34 felony counts of having falsified business records in an effort to unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election.

He had been accused of covering up reimbursement payments to Cohen for $130,000 (£102,000) paid in hush money to Stormy Daniels, whose story about having sex with Trump threatened to derail his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Demonstrators hold up ‘GUILTY’ signs outside Trump Tower as the former president delivers remarks on May 31, one day after he was found guilty of 34 felonies
Demonstrators hold up ‘GUILTY’ signs outside Trump Tower as the former president delivers remarks on May 31, one day after he was found guilty of 34 felonies (Getty)

Trump closed his remarks by claiming that it was “dangerous” for him to attack the judge, but said he does not mind attacking him because he remains “willing to do whatever I have to do to save our country and to save our constitution”.

He vowed to appeal the jury’s verdict, and reminded viewers of the November 5 election, in which he will face off against Mr Biden for the final time.

The Biden campaign weighed in on Trump’s remarks, with communications director Michael Tyler calling him “unhinged by his 2020 election loss and spiraling from his criminal convictions” and said he was “consumed by his own thirst for revenge and retribution”.

“America just witnessed a confused, desperate, and defeated Donald Trump ramble about his own personal grievances and lie about the American justice system, leaving anyone watching with one obvious conclusion: This man cannot be president of the United States,” he said.

Alex Woodward reports from Manhattan

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