Trump Revels in Legal and Political Wins While Biden’s Campaign Reels From Their Debate

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Jul 03, 2024

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally in Chesapeake, Va., Friday, June 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)


NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump likes to be the one in the spotlight.

But in the days since President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate performance, the presumptive Republican nominee has kept a low profile, leaving the focus on the drama engulfing the Democratic Party as he and his campaign revel in a series of legal and political victories heading into the Republican National Convention this month.

Trump’s run began last week during the first debate, when Biden delivered a performance so dismal that he has spent the days since fending off calls from alarmed Democrats to step aside to save the party from losses up and down the ballot.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that former presidents have broad immunity from prosecution, limiting the indictment against Trump for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden. It’s all but certain he won’t face trial before Election Day.

And on Tuesday, the judge in Trump’s New York criminal hush money trial postponed his sentencing to weigh the impact of the Supreme Court decision.

The flood of good news — along with a major fundraising haul that has eliminated what had been Biden’s substantial cash advantage — has given Trump and his team cause for celebration as they head into the convention this month. And it has frustrated Biden supporters who would prefer to focus on Trump’s sweeping second-term agenda and comments he made during the debate minimizing the Capitol riot and suggesting he might not accept the results of this election, either.

Instead of taking a victory lap, Trump has been lying low. While he sat for several radio interviews over the weekend and has been active on his Truth Social site, he has no public events on his schedule this week.

That’s partially a function of the calendar with the Fourth of July on Thursday. But Trump’s team, recognizing that Biden’s campaign faces intense pressure, is perfectly happy to keep the focus on the incumbent, according to people familiar with the strategy who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the campaign’s thinking.

Brendan Buck, a Republican strategist who’s not a Trump supporter, credited the ex-president for what he called an “uncharacteristically disciplined” response to the debate and for “letting Biden sort of twist in the wind.”

But he said challenges remain for the former president as he seeks a second term.

“Trump still remains an incredibly vulnerable, bad candidate. And that’s what makes all of this so much worse,” he said of the debate debacle. “I think Donald Trump is still very capable of blowing this.”

In a statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said, “In a few weeks, a unified and enthusiastic Republican Party will formally nominate President Trump and by that time, he will select America’s next Vice President from an impressive field of elected officials and business leaders, any of whom will represent a major upgrade to the current VP.”

“Team Trump will continue to build off the momentum earned by President Trump to grow our movement, raise the money we need to win, and head into the fall poised for a historic victory,” she added.

The recent events could also impact the timing of Trump’s vice presidential rollout — an announcement certain to garner a flurry of attention and a flood of stories about his chosen candidate’s record and past statements.

Campaign officials have repeatedly said Trump will announce his pick when he’s ready and still caution that an announcement could come anytime.

But some allies said they think he’s now more likely to wait.

“Donald Trump has a hot hand. He’s playing his hand perfectly,” said Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, who traveled with him to the debate June 27 and is now a senior adviser to the convention. Given the current situation, Lewandowski said, there’s “no reason to announce anything and take the media attention away from Joe Biden.”

While the election remains months away, Lewandowski argued Trump is in a stronger position now than he was at this point during his previous campaigns.

“All of these things are indications that the campaign is looking to keep their foot on the gas and keep the pressure on the Biden campaign,” he said.

In the meantime, aides have been exulting in the Biden campaign’s troubles. Steven Cheung, Trump’s chief spokesperson, dialed into a Biden campaign media call held Monday to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling and mocked the campaign on social media for letting him join.

On Tuesday, Cheung joked about crashing an upcoming White House staff call.

Biden and his allies, meanwhile, have tried to return the focus to Trump. They’ve noted that Trump again minimized the violence of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol during the debate and refused to denounce those who attacked police officers and stormed the building by breaking doors and windows.

Trump also repeatedly declined to state unequivocally that he would accept the results of this November’s election, saying he would do so only “If it’s a fair and legal and good election.” There is no reason to think it won’t be, even as Trump for years has spread false fears about election fraud.

Democrats have also called attention to Trump’s mention of migrants entering the U.S. illegally taking “Black jobs” and “Hispanic jobs,” arguing Trump was insulting people of color.

And Biden and his allies have warned about the implications of the Supreme Court ruling declaring Trump immune from prosecution for key moments listed in the Jan. 6 indictment. They have cited previous Trump comments that he would be a “dictator” on his first day in office and his threats to prosecute political enemies.

Over the weekend, Trump shared several posts on his Truth Social network reflecting his long-simmering grievances and threats of political retribution. One of the posts suggested former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican critic, was “guilty of treason” and asked supporters to share it if they wanted “televised military tribunals.” Another post featured photos of Biden and other senior Democratic and Republican officials and suggested they should be jailed.

“Trump now has the cover he needs to jail and assassinate his opponents, direct the military to overturn a free and fair election, and take cash in bribes for pardons — with full immunity,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa charged in a statement. “This November, the voters must stop Trump from turning the Oval Office into his throne room.”

Trump has a long history of turning what would be devastating, career-ending episodes for anyone else into campaign fuel.

Though he has been indicted four times and was convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, his criminal trial and conviction appear to have done little to damage his standing in the polls and instead helped him raise millions of dollars.

His campaign announced Tuesday that it had outraised Biden in the year’s second quarter, with a reported haul of $331 million.

In a sign of how Trump’s opponents feel about the state of the race, Buck, the Republican strategist, warned the former president could be in trouble if the debate fallout does somehow push Biden out of the race, even though that currently seems unlikely. Trump could then face a fresher face who is potentially more energetic and a better campaigner than Biden.

“This lucky week could turn unlucky,” Buck said, “if it means Biden drops out.”

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