Trump lashes out at 'crooked' judge, trial after historic conviction

Donald Trump sought to move past his historic criminal conviction on Friday and build momentum for his bid to return to the White House with fierce attacks on the judge who oversaw the case, the prosecution's star witness and the criminal justice system as a whole.

The presumptive Republican nominee mixed trial complaints with campaign-style attacks on Joe Biden

Does Trump lose his right to vote? Answering your questions

2 months ago
Duration 4:17
We answer your questions about Donald Trump's criminal convictions and what it means for his right to vote and travel, and whether he would retain Secret Service protection if he were imprisoned.

Donald Trump sought to move past his historic criminal conviction on Friday and build momentum for his bid to return to the White House with fierce attacks on the judge who oversaw the case, the prosecution's star witness and the criminal justice system as a whole.

Speaking from his namesake tower in Manhattan in a symbolic return to the campaign trail, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee delivered a message aimed squarely at his most loyal supporters. Defiant as ever, he insisted without evidence that the verdict was "rigged" and driven by politics.

"We're going to fight," Trump said from the atrium of Trump Tower, where he had descended his golden escalator to announce his 2016 campaign nine years ago next month. It was that campaign that led to the charges that made Trump the first former president and presumptive major party nominee in the nation's history to be convicted of a crime.

A Manhattan jury on Thursday found Trump guilty of 34 charges in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through a hush-money payment to a porn actor who said the two had sex.

While the guilty verdict has energized Trump's base, fuelling millions of dollars in new campaign contributions, it's unclear how the conviction and his rambling response will resonate with the kinds of voters who are likely to decide what is expected to be an extremely close November election. They include suburban women, independents and voters turned off by both candidates who remain on the fence.

WATCH | Revenge campaign will ensue if Trump is re-elected: David Frum: 

The problem with Trump’s hush money conviction

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CBC chief correspondent Adrienne Arsenault talks to David Frum about why he thinks Donald Trump’s conviction should have been linked to his role in the Capitol riots instead of hush-money and what it means for democracy in the U.S.

Trump cast himself as a martyr, suggesting that if this could happen to him, "They can do this to anyone."

"I'm willing to do whatever I have to do to save our country and save our Constitution. I don't mind," he said, as he traded the aging lower Manhattan courthouse where he had spent much of the last two months for a backdrop of American flags, rose marble and brass.

"It's a very unpleasant thing, to be honest," he said. "But it's a great, great honor."

President Joe Biden, responding to the verdict at the White House, said the former president "was given every opportunity to defend himself" and blasted his rhetoric.

"It's reckless, it's dangerous, it's irresponsible for anyone to say this is rigged just because they don't like the verdict," Biden said.

Payment to porn star was 'totally legal,' Trump says

No former president or presumptive party nominee has ever faced a felony conviction or the prospect of prison time. But Trump has made his legal woes the centrepiece of his campaign message as he has argued without evidence that the four indictments against him were orchestrated by Biden to hobble his campaign.

The hush-money case was filed by local prosecutors in Manhattan who don't work for the Justice Department or any White House office.

Despite the historic ruling, a convicted Trump sounded much the same as a pre-convicted Trump, as he delivered what amounted to a truncated version of his usual rally speech.

The Republican ex-president, as defiant as ever, argued the verdict was illegitimate and driven by politics and sought to downplay the facts underlying the case.

"It's not hush money. It's a nondisclosure agreement. Totally legal, totally common," he said.

WATCH | 'One guilty verdict after another': What it was like in the courtroom:

CBC's Alex Panetta was in the courtroom as the Trump verdict came in. Here's what he saw

2 months ago
Duration 1:18
Alex Panetta, a Washington correspondent for CBC News, was in the New York courtroom on Thursday when the jury read out the verdict convicting former U.S. president Donald Trump of 34 charges. Here's what he saw.

When Trump emerged from the courtroom immediately after the verdict Thursday, he had appeared tense and deeply angry, his words pointed and clipped. But by Friday, he seemed more relaxed — if a little congested — especially as his remarks evolved into a version of his usual rally speeches, complete with acted-out stories and exaggerated hand gestures.

He did not take questions from reporters, marching off as supporters who'd assembled in the lobby cheered.

Trump, who has painted himself as pro-law enforcement and even talked of how officers might handle suspects roughly, has spent the last two years attacking parts of the criminal justice system as it applies to him and raising questions about the honesty and motives of agents and prosecutors.

In his disjointed remarks, Trump attacked Biden on immigration and tax policies before pivoting to his case, growling that he was threatened with jail time if he violated a gag order. He cast intricate parts of the case and trial proceedings as unfair, making false statements and misrepresentations as he went.

A close-up photo of a man's face with the American flag in the background.
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. president Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump Tower in New York City on Friday, the day after a guilty verdict in his criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Trump blasted witness, judge

Trump said he had wanted to testify in his trial, a right that he opted not to exercise. Doing so would have allowed prosecutors to cross-examine him.

The former president on Friday raised the spectre of being charged with perjury for a verbal misstep, saying, "The theory is you never testify because as soon as you testify — anybody, if it were George Washington — don't testify because they'll get you on something that you said slightly wrong."

Testing the limits of the gag order that continues to prohibit him from publicly critiquing witnesses including Michael Cohen, Trump called his former fixer, the star prosecution witness in the case, "a sleazebag," without referencing him by name.

He also blasted the judge in the case, saying his side's chief witness had been "literally crucified by this man who looks like an angel, but he's really a devil."

He also circled back to some of the same authoritarian themes he has repeatedly focused on in speeches and rallies, painting the U.S. under Biden as a "corrupt" and "fascist" nation.

His son Eric Trump and daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, joined him, but his wife, Melania Trump, who has been publicly silent since the verdict, was not seen.

Outside, on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, supporters gathered across the street flew a giant red "TRUMP OR DEATH" sign that flapped in front of a high-end boutique. A small group of protesters held up signs that said "Guilty" and "Justice matters."

WATCH | Former state judge explains what judge may consider in sentencing Trump:

A former Florida judge breaks down what might come next for Trump sentencing

2 months ago
Duration 3:10
Jeffrey Swartz, a former Florida state judge, says it's unwise of former U.S. president Donald Trump to attack the judge handling his New York criminal case. 'It's just not going to work for Donald Trump and it doesn't work for anybody else.'

On Friday morning, Trump's campaign announced it had raised $34.8 million from the time the verdict was announced through midnight. That's more than $1 million for each felony charge and more than his political operation raised in January and February combined.

Just under 30 per cent of that money came from donors who had not previously given to the campaign through the online platform, they said.

Trump and his campaign had been preparing for a guilty verdict for days, even as they held out hope for a hung jury. On Tuesday, Trump railed that not even Mother Teresa, the nun and saint, could beat the charges, which he repeatedly labelled as "rigged."

His top aides on Wednesday released a memo in which they insisted a verdict would have no impact on the election, whether Trump was convicted or acquitted.

The news nonetheless landed with a jolt. Trump listened, sitting stone-faced as the jury delivered a guilty verdict on every count.

An older, clean-shaven man in a suit and tie is shown speaking before a backdrop of American flags.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, delivered a message Friday aimed squarely at his most loyal supporters, insisting without evidence that Thursday's guilty verdict was 'rigged' and driven by politics. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Campaign reports rush of contributions 

His campaign fired off a flurry of fundraising appeals, and GOP allies rallied to his side.

One text message called him a "political prisoner," even though he hasn't yet found out if he will be sentenced to prison. The campaign also began selling black "Make America Great Again" caps, instead of the usual red, to reflect a "dark day in history."

Aides reported an immediate rush of contributions so intense that WinRed, the platform the campaign uses for fundraising, crashed. The $34.8 million raised Thursday did not include what Trump collected at his in-person fundraiser or any donations that continued to come in online Friday.

Trump is set in the upcoming two months to have his first debate with Biden, announce a running mate and formally accept his party's nomination at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. But before he does, Trump will have to return to court on July 11 for sentencing. He could face penalties ranging from a fine or probation, or up to four years in prison.

With files from CBC News