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President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y.
President Joe Biden does not plan to speak publicly on the Donald Trump verdict on Thursday, a White House official said. Alex Brandon/AP

Bidenworld Has Its Eyes On November After the Trump Verdict

The campaign encouraged surrogates to focus on the ballot box and Donald Trump’s record, according to talking points obtained by NOTUS.

The Biden campaign knows that a conviction — even on 34 counts — isn’t enough to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. So while staff was glued to the news and quickly put out a written statement on the former president’s unprecedented criminal conviction, they took every chance to pivot back to beating Trump in November.

A little over 20 minutes after the jury began reading Trump’s guilty verdicts, the campaign put out a statement urging voters to support President Joe Biden.

“[T]oday’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president,” Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communications director, said in a statement.

It was clear that the campaign’s message was choreographed to respond to one of the most awaited jury decisions in modern history. It stuck to the central message that Biden aides have relayed to reporters over the last few weeks as the trial wound down, and it was clear that the proceedings weren’t drawing in everyday Americans: The election is the true test.

The campaign reiterated that the ballot box is its focus in approved talking points sent to surrogates and obtained by NOTUS. “Donald Trump grows more unhinged and dangerous as he continues his campaign for revenge and retribution— running to serve himself with no care for who he hurts in the process,” one talking point reads.

Biden himself has largely stayed out of the fray, and that continued after the verdict. Asked if the president would speak publicly Thursday about the verdict, a White House official bluntly texted, “He’s not.”

“We respect the rule of law and have no additional comment,” Ian Sams, the White House’s legal office spokesperson, said when asked for an official statement.

Biden spent the day at his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach after visiting his late son Beau’s gravesite in Wilmington on the ninth anniversary of his death. The first time that reporters expect to see the president is Friday when he returns to D.C.

But at the Wilmington campaign HQ, some Biden aides were gathered around a TV as the guilty verdicts rang out — with a little astonishment at the results, according to a source familiar with the campaign dynamic.

An email went out to staff urging them not to post any personal views of the verdict on their social accounts — instead, the email obtained by NOTUS, told staff to only amplify the campaign statement.

Veterans of other high-profile political moments told NOTUS previously that the campaign could take a back seat to other pundits in the post-verdict spin war.

“The campaign doesn’t actually need to say or do much of anything because there’ll be so many people with something to say, including Trump himself,” said Karen Finney, a former Clinton campaign messaging strategist.

Prior to this week, the campaign had only mentioned the trial in subtle jabs, part of a strategy that some Democrats told NOTUS in April was based on a theory of “when your opponent is busy painting themselves into a corner, don’t offer them a bigger brush.”

That changed Tuesday when the campaign brought actor Robert De Niro out to the courthouse to address reporters, a brief change of tactic meant to insert Biden into the national conversation surrounding the trial. It came after some Democrats pushed the president and Biden campaign to take on Trump’s criminal court case more directly.

Online, Biden’s allies wavered in how aggressively they targeted the former president.

“The jury has spoken. Justice has prevailed,” Rep. Jim Clyburn, a longtime ally of Biden’s, posted on X.

“Newsflash: It matters that the Republican nominee for President is a convicted criminal. The rule of law still matters. And this won’t be his last conviction. He’s committed multiple crimes and he’s going to be convicted multiple times. He can never be President again,” wrote Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Trump also kept his messaging focused on the election.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial,” Trump said outside the courthouse. “The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people.”

Jasmine Wright is a reporter at NOTUS. Calen Razor is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.