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Trump conviction shows ‘no one is above the law,’ Biden says

President lays out most detailed road map for end of Israel-Hamas war

President Joe Biden addresses the country one day after Donald Trump was convicted in a New York state court. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden addresses the country one day after Donald Trump was convicted in a New York state court. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Friday defended a New York jury’s decision to find Donald Trump guilty on 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records, as well as the former president’s right to appeal.

But Biden also responded to Trump’s many gripes about the trial, calling it “irresponsible” to deem the case “rigged.”

Trump used a morning press conference in Manhattan to rail against the verdict reached Thursday, the jury and Judge Juan Merchan, whom he called a “devil.”

Biden, speaking at the White House a few hours later, defended the processes by which Trump received his day in court and how the state court went about selecting the jury.

“The American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed,” Biden said. “Donald Trump was given every opportunity to defend himself. … And it was heard by a jury of 12 citizens, 12 Americans, 12 people like you.”

Biden said the jury “was chosen the same way every jury in America’s chosen” and Trump’s attorneys took part in their selection.

“The jury heard five weeks of evidence, five weeks. And after careful deliberation, the jury reached a unanimous verdict,” Biden said.

Biden, who has vowed to stay out of Department of Justice and other legal matters, also made clear he realizes Trump’s hush money and business record falsification case is not over — even though his sentencing is set for July 11, a few days before the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is set to be at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

“Now he’ll be given the opportunity, as he should, to appeal that decision, just like everyone else has that opportunity,” the president said. “That’s how the American system of justice works.”

In a 30-minute speech Friday, Trump criticized the conduct of the trial, the verdict, the “unselect” special House panel that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, increasing immigration, environmental regulation on cars and other issues. He claimed that trial witnesses were “literally crucified,” that the trial was “rigged” and made other false claims.

At one point Trump claimed “we’re living in a fascist state,” and said without evidence that the Biden administration had coordinated with state prosecutors to bring the case.

The former president’s reelection campaign quickly capitalized on the conviction and announced a record one-day fundraising haul Friday of more than $34.8 million, according to a statement from RNC Chairman Michael Whatley.

“The American people stand behind President Trump in the face of this unprecedented weaponization of the judicial system and we are laser-focused on investing these resources to get out the vote, protect the ballot, and re-elect President Donald J. Trump,” Whatley said.

The Biden campaign pushed back on Trump’s claims, calling Friday’s speech “confused, desperate and defeated,” and argued the conviction showed Trump is unfit for office.

“Unhinged by his 2020 election loss and spiraling from his criminal convictions, Trump is consumed by his own thirst for revenge and retribution,” the Biden campaign statement said.

‘An enduring ceasefire’

Biden’s first public comment about Trump’s conviction came at the top of remarks about a ceasefire deal Israel, the United States and others have presented to Hamas.

Biden dubbed the plan “a comprehensive new proposal” that amounts to a “roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages.” He noted it “has been transmitted by Qatar to Hamas.”

The proposal, if accepted by a Hamas leadership that has rejected several other ceasefire plans, would be implemented in three phases.

The first phase would include a pause in fighting for six weeks, with Israeli forces pulling back from Gaza’s population centers. Hostages would be released in exchange for Israel releasing some Palestinian prisoners. The second phase would be an agreement to permanently end this round of fighting.

“Now, I’ll be straight with you: There are a number of details to negotiate to move from phase one to phase two,” Biden said, sighing at one point as he noted there “will be differences” to iron out.

Phase two also could bring about the removal of all Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip, but only if Hamas has been deemed to be living up to its promises. If both sides do so, the second phase also would call for “an exchange … if all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers.”

‘Indefinite war’

Those aspects were telling because Israeli officials still consider “destroying Hamas” as its ultimate goal — but Biden did not call for that on Friday.

Phase three proposes “a major reconstruction plan for Gaza,” as well as the return of the remains of deceased hostages to their families.

“That’s the plan that’s now on the table,” he said. “Hamas needs to take the deal.”

While Biden did not specify which countries would finance any rebuilding of Gaza, he did say that “Arab nations and the international community, along with Palestinian and Israeli leaders” would have to first craft a plan to “not allow Hamas to re-arm.”

“The United States will work with our partners to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals,” he said, “to help repair communities that were destroyed and the chaos of war.”

And he urged Israelis to support the proposal because “indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of total victory will … only bog down Israel in Gaza.”

“That will not bring hostages home,” Biden said. “That will not not bring an enduring defeat of Hamas. That will not bring Israel lasting security.”

“It’s time for this war to end,” he added, “and for the day after to begin.”

Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

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