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Trump allies say his felony conviction has helped unify Republicans

Former President Donald Trump holds a press conference Friday at Trump Tower in New York City following the verdict in his hush money trial.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images North America
Former President Donald Trump holds a press conference Friday at Trump Tower in New York City following the verdict in his hush money trial.

Allies of former President Donald Trump say his felony conviction Thursday in a New York hush money case has helped energize and unify the Republican Party.

"He's already using this verdict to fundraise," Bryan Lanza, a former Trump aide who remains close to the campaign, said in an interview with NPR. "He's already using this verdict to rally the party. He's already using this verdict to contrast himself against Joe Biden. And so, obviously, this verdict is going to be front and center in nearly everything we do."

Trump has survived numerous controversies that would doom most any politician. His team says this is no different.

They had been preparing for this potential verdict for weeks, claiming the prosecutor and judge were biased. Trump said Mother Teresa couldn't beat the charges.

Just minutes after the verdict was read, the campaign blasted supporters with fundraising pleas with graphic images of Trump attached to slogans like "Never Surrender." Trump called himself a "Political Prisoner."

"From just minutes after the sham trial verdict was announced, our digital fundraising system was overwhelmed with support," Trump campaign senior advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles said in a statement.

Trump's campaign said Friday morning that it had raised more than $34.8 million in the hours after the verdict. The large haul was "nearly double" its previous single-day fundraising record on the WinRed platform, which is used for Republican donors, according to the campaign.

Trump has repeatedly seen fundraising surges after notable developments in the criminal cases he faces.

Political impact is unclear

While the conviction of a former president is historic, it's unclear what impact it will have on the 2024 election. The country is deeply divided and polls show most Americans have already made up their minds about which candidate they will vote for.

Two out of three registered voters said a guilty verdict would have no impact on who they will vote for, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Roughly 17% of voters said a guilty verdict would make them less likely to vote for Trump.

"Republicans who already support him will say, 'Well, this was a rigged trial. They had a Democratic prosecutor ringing him up on these fake charges. And, of course, they found him guilty because they've got a Democratic jury,' " said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research. "Democrats aren't going to be more against Donald Trump. I mean, you can only vote against him once."

But it's already clear that the Trump and Biden campaigns will use the verdict to advance their agendas.

Alex Conant, who helped lead Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign in 2016, says little will change overnight, but the verdict could have an impact on more moderate voters in battleground states.

"It's going to give independents pause," Conant said. "It's going to raise questions about his viability. And I think there's going to be some Republicans that just don't want to be associated with that."

Trump, Biden speak on the verdict

Speaking from Trump Tower in New York City on Friday, Trump described the trial as a scam, called the judge the "devil," and claimed the U.S. was being led by "fascists."

"It is a case where if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone," said Trump, who promised to appeal the verdict.

The rambling speech veered from rehashing arguments about his criminal trial to attacking Biden. He made baseless claims about Biden and his administration manipulating the prosecution for political gain.

Biden, meanwhile, said the verdict reaffirmed "the American principle that no one was above the law."

Speaking in the State Dining Room of the White House, Biden said Trump was judged by a jury of 12 citizens and that he had every opportunity to defend himself.

"That's how the American system of justice works," Biden said. "And it's reckless. It's dangerous. It's irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don't like the verdict."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
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