- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2024

President Biden is deriding former President Donald Trump as a convicted felon who is attacking the legal system and wants to “exact revenge” in a second term.

Mr. Biden unloaded on Mr. Trump during a fundraiser this week in McLean, Virginia, one day after his campaign launched ads highlighting Mr. Trump’s 34 felony counts, as part of a $50 million buy — signaling a shift toward tougher rhetoric as the campaign heads into its final months.

“For the first time in American history, a former president is a convicted felon and is now seeking the office of the presidency,” Mr. Biden said at the home of former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “What’s more damaging is the all-out assault Donald Trump is making on our system of justice.”

For months, the president had been reluctant to comment on criminal indictments against Mr. Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, hoping to combat Republican claims that the cases are politically motivated.

Yet Mr. Trump was convicted of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records on May 30, bringing a change in Mr. Biden’s calculus as the campaign enters the homestretch. Mr. Biden issued a statement the day after the verdict that said a jury of 12 peers convicted Mr. Trump and affirmed “the American principle that no one is above the law.”

Mr. Biden ramped up his rhetoric in front of donors.

“Trump has made it clear he’s running to exact revenge. And now after his criminal conviction, he’s clear he’s worried about preserving his freedom,” Mr. Biden said at the Virginia fundraiser late Tuesday. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the event.

Mr. Biden is holding a string of fundraisers as Mr. Trump reports a hefty haul following his conviction.

The Democratic incumbent appeared with former President Barack Obama in Los Angeles as part of a five-day fundraising blitz that raised around $40 million.

Swing state polls show Mr. Trump leading Mr. Biden or tied with the president heading into the summer party conventions.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump’s legal woes will move enough voters to sway the election.

A recent poll found that nearly half, 48%, of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s felony conviction, while only about three in 10 disapprove and about 20% have no opinion.

However, views of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden as political candidates remained relatively unchanged, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey.

Mr. Biden saw a minor shift his way in another survey this month. Voters who previously backed Mr. Trump by 3 points in New York Times/Siena College surveys only backed him by 1 point following his conviction.

“The use of the word ‘felon’ is aimed directly at the fence-sitters in the electorate,” said Ross Baker, a politics professor at Rutgers University. “It doesn’t help the Democrats very much with younger voters, an object of great concern to them, but older voters may see Trump [as] tainted by the term.”

Mr. Trump, 78, says Mr. Biden, 81, is slipping in cognitive ability and relying on the courts to give him an advantage in November.

“I never heard the word ’indictment’ and all of a sudden it’s coming from all different angles,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday at a rally in Racine, Wisconsin. “We are doing better now than we’ve ever done because people know it’s all a scam.”

Mr. Biden says Mr. Trump is the desperate one, pointing to the real estate mogul’s decision to sell Bibles and gold sneakers.

“The threat Trump poses will be greater in a second term than it was in his first term,” Mr. Biden said. “You know, he snapped when we lost. I mean this sincerely. He can’t accept he lost. It’s literally driving him crazy. That’s why when January 6 happened — and now he’s running again. He’s not only obsessed with losing in 2020, he’s currently a little bit unhinged right now.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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