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Most Americans Aren’t Closely Following Trump’s Trial. Democrats Aren’t Pressing On It.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, co-chair for Biden’s reelection, told NOTUS Democrats need to “stay out of it until it’s resolved.”

Democrats are passing on attacking former President Donald Trump over the stream of revelations coming out of his first criminal trial, convinced that he’s doing enough damage to himself.

“Trump’s putting in enough effort for all of us. All of this reminds America of what life with Donald Trump is like,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat who managed Trump’s second impeachment, told NOTUS.

Staying low-key, though, has clear risks for Democrats. For one thing, despite the historic nature of the charges Trump faces, most Americans so far are not closely following the trial. A PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll this month found that 55% of respondents weren’t paying attention to the trial much or at all, and a CNN/SSRS poll from the start of the trial found 55% of independent voters were not following the proceedings closely or at all. And with President Joe Biden currently trailing Trump in most national polls, there hasn’t been a clear sign as yet that the trial is substantially changing voters’ plans for November.

Democrats on President Joe Biden’s campaign advisory board say voters don’t care about Trump’s legal problems, and it’s better for them to talk about what a second Biden term would offer.

“The Democratic Party should be focused on why people should come out and vote. The court process is going to play itself out. The media is covering that plenty,” Rep. Jennifer McClellan told NOTUS. “We need voters to understand that every day Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are waking up to see what they can do to help improve their lives.”

“I think we need to be focused on the economy. We need to focus on what we can do for the American people.” Rep. Ro Khanna also told NOTUS, echoing a similar sentiment.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, co-chair for Biden’s reelection effort, told NOTUS that it’s not for Democrats to take a position on Trump’s cases and they need to “stay out of it until it’s resolved.”

Biden allies think he stands to benefit now from a daily contrast with Trump. While Biden is able to campaign across swing states, Trump is stuck in a Manhattan courtroom for most of the week while court is in session, defending himself against 34 felony counts for falsifying his business records and paying hush money to an adult film performer.

Trump has denied all the charges against him in New York and elsewhere, but the existence of the cases is complicating his campaign. He may, however, only have to face one trial before the election because of procedural delays in the cases in Florida, Washington and Georgia.


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Clyburn said the delays themselves shouldn’t become a “partisan issue.”

“I think it’s a fact,” he said, that verdicts in the outstanding cases “are going to be pushed out after the election.”

Raskin agreed, saying the outcome of the trials wouldn’t determine who wins the election. “If you’re implying that we should be talking more about the details of the trials, all of that is a bit hard for people to follow. In any event, it exposes what people already know, which is that he’s an abuser of women. He’s a cheater, a liar and he has a spectacular disrespect for the rule of law,” he said.

Other Democrats are a bit more skeptical.

“I think that’d be terrible for the country if the verdicts were announced after the election and he were found guilty,” Rep. Mark Veasey told NOTUS.

Rep. Steve Cohen told NOTUS he was worried that “the case in Florida is being put off intentionally by Judge Cannon for her own future.”

Even with the delays elsewhere, the reality in Manhattan has created material for Democrats, should they want to use it.

Stormy Daniels, to whom the prosecution alleges Trump’s lawyer and fixer at the time paid hush money, gave graphic details about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump, which the former president denies.

Democrats would rather turn their gaze away.

“They’re being well-covered,” Rep. Deborah Ross told NOTUS of the media’s reporting on Trump’s cases.


Tinashe Chingarande is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.