September 26, 2023

Trump is trying to make his own criminal charges against Joe Biden

WASHINGTON — When Donald Trump announced to the world on Thursday night that he had been indicted on a series of federal charges, his message was consistent and singularly focused: Joe Biden is using the administration to crush his political comeback.

That the Biden-appointed attorney general had assigned special counsel to lead the investigation — a move designed to isolate the president from a prosecution decision — was omitted by Trump and the battery of Republican allies who rushed to his aid. came. And it’s likely a nuance that eludes voters, as the indictment fuels Republican fears about political bias within the Justice Department.

But so far, Biden has shown no signs of a change of strategy when it comes to his main political rival’s legal woes: Shut up and get on with business in the White House.

“It falls into the category of the political idiom of, if your opponent is self-destructive, just get out of the way,” said Democratic National Committee member and party strategist Maria Cardona. “They are focused on getting President Biden to do what President Biden does best, which is focus on governing, focus on delivering, focus on communicating his achievements, and focus on continuing to deliver what he promised to the American people that he would doing. And as for the campaign, keep focusing on the message that he still has to get the job done.”

It was the strategy Biden employed when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump in late March, even despite Republicans insisting Democrats orchestrated the charges for political gain. But this time around, Biden is much less removed from the action: The attorney general serves as he sees fit. And Trump is trying to make sure voters don’t forget that.

Trump’s announcement that he had been indicted began with, “The corrupt Biden administration informed my lawyers,” then called it a “boxes hoax” and “election interference.” After that, almost every statement continued to address the president for his predecessor’s problems.

But Biden allies, strategists and legal experts say the president may not have much choice but to remain silent.

Rick Wilson, a political consultant and co-founder of The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, described Biden as “a bit of a wedge” as Trump attacks his Justice Department and the president holds back from defending it.

“An important part of Trump’s defense is, ‘This is a political prosecution brought against me by the Biden administration,'” Wilson said. “That’s sort of an unsolvable problem for Biden in a way, because if you deny it, a denial is a full admission of guilt in the minds of the MAGA.”

He added: “They are going to claim corruption; Biden shouldn’t give them ammunition or valences to attack him with.”

Biden allies portrayed the liability as ingrained.

“Well, there is always political accountability in enforcing the law with elected officials who are prominent. And you are always subject to that charge, every time. But what’s the alternative?” asked Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a senior member of the House Oversight Committee. “So we’re going to have a whole class of Americans for whom the law doesn’t apply?”

“What happened to the principle that no one is above the law? I think that’s a principle most Americans understand,” he said. And in Trump’s case, “there’s a huge difference — it’s willful violations of the law and it’s obstruction of justice,” he added.

‘Go for the jugular vein’

Asked at a news conference Thursday what he could tell Americans to convince them to trust the independence of the Justice Department, Biden responded that his record contradicts the allegations he now faces.

“You’ll notice that I’ve never – not once – suggested to the Justice Department what they should or shouldn’t do about whether or not to press charges,” he said. “I’m honest.”

But the president will have to resist the pressure to fight back as Democrats get caught between wanting to see Trump come under the full weight of the courts — and still being there to meet Biden at the general elections next year.

“There is certainly a portion of the presidential base that wants to go for Trump’s jugular,” said a Democratic strategist, who described Biden and the White House as “comfortable” with a strategy that refuses to provide the “red meat” that some Democrats maybe have. hope.

For now, “the best way to handle some things in politics is not to interrupt a good story,” the strategist said, admitting there was an advantage to facing the former president again.

He added, “With Trump, they’ve run the simulation before.”

“We need Trump to win the primaries at the end of it all,” said TJ Rooney, a former chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Ultimately, the Biden White House is hoping for a retaliation for the split screen that occurred in April, when television cameras flashed footage of Trump’s plane sitting on the tarmac at a New York airport ahead of his historic indictment in a hush money case, while Biden gave a policy speech in a suburb of Minneapolis and made the contrast clear.

Still, “in this crazy political atmosphere, you can’t take anything for granted,” Cardona warned. “They don’t assume this will be good for Biden.”

The regular calculation seems to have gone out the window.

“Most people charged with espionage don’t get the GOP nomination,” Wilson said. “They get a trip to the supermax.”

The timing of Trump’s latest indictment may help Biden dispel allegations that his Justice Department is working to bring his most formidable potential adversary to its knees.

William Barr, who served as attorney general in the Trump administration, rejected the idea that the Justice Department would act politically if it charged Trump.

In fact, if prosecutors were motivated by political considerations, they could wait until later in the election cycle to charge Trump, Barr said, or perhaps not charge him at all so as not to create an opening for a better-placed Republican rival. is for the former vulnerabilities of the president.

“If the department were political, they wouldn’t act against him, and certainly not urgently,” Barr told NBC News. A politically minded Justice Department would choose not to “go against him or not too early”, and instead wait to “knock him out by the end”.

“Actually, the political game would be here not to charge him, but to keep the thing running for a while,” he said.

Silence is an attitude, legal experts say, that Biden must uphold.

“The smartest thing he can do is stay 1,000 miles away from the investigations and not comment on them at all,” said Norm Eisen, President Barack Obama’s White House ethics czar. “Let the process take its course.”

On Trump, he added, “The man will bleed from multiple criminal cuts that he brought on all by himself.”

Circumstances are in Biden’s favor politically, Eisen said — even as the president may be held accountable for the discovery of several batches of classified government documents in his home and private office.

“Privately, I think the prosecution of Trump is good political news for Biden,” he said. “Having Biden himself liable would be less beneficial, but it is extremely unlikely that Biden has any liability here.”

However, Eisen warned that “it is still very early days and the situation could certainly change.”

‘Let others do the talking’

A separate special prosecutor is investigating Biden over his handling of classified documents after the president’s personal attorneys found government files containing classified documents dating back to his service as vice president at his now-closed Washington think tank just before the midterm elections last year. Lawyers for the president notified
the National Archives, which took possession of the documents. But the White House kept quiet until January, when the news broke and new parties were discovered in the president’s Delaware home and garage. drawing Trump’s accusation of a stratified justice system.

Biden remained silent despite strong criticism of his lack of transparency in the matter when new searches earlier this year uncovered more documents. Presidents and vice presidents must return government records to the National Archives and Records Administration upon leaving office.

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, is also under investigation by the Justice Department, a point Trump and his allies often make when pointing out the Biden family’s foreign business dealings.

Where Biden may be in political jeopardy is comments that could raise suspicions that he is interfering with that active investigation.

“My son has done nothing wrong,” the president said in a May interview with MSNBC. In her East Wing office last year, First Lady Jill Biden told NBC News that “Hunter is innocent.”

Legal experts said Biden’s decision to comment on his son’s case had compromised the appearance of impartiality.

“As painful and agonizing as it is for a parent to have to bite their lip, he is also the president,” Eisen said. “Let others make that argument.”

“Because of the risk that line attorneys may feel pressured, it’s best — whether presidents, vice presidents or governors — not to comment on pending criminal cases,” Richard Painter, the White House’s chief ethics attorney, said in 2005. until 2007 under then-President George W. Bush. He said the biggest risk was private pressure, though he said he saw no evidence here. Painter has been critical of Biden’s handling of classified documents.

Even if the Justice Department were to indict Hunter Biden, it seems unlikely to satisfy Biden’s critics who say the system is unfairly targeting Trump.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., who has been under investigation by the FBI for his alleged role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, accused the Biden Justice Department of launching an “unrelenting arming of the federal government against the U.S. citizens”.

“They target anyone they disagree with politically and of course they target the person and symbol of the political party they most despise,” Perry, president of the far-right Freedom Caucus, said in an interview.

But he had no problem with the Justice Department investigating Hunter Biden: “I can’t really solve it because, with all due respect, if you had a laptop like that in public and your local police found it, you would be in jail right now.”

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