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Former President Donald Trump arrives to the courthouse as the jury in his criminal trial is scheduled to continue deliberations at Manhattan Criminal Court.
Former President Donald Trump arrives to the courthouse. Justin Lane/AP

Democrats Try Not to Sound Too Excited About Trump’s Guilty Verdict

Not wanting to draw criticisms that they were being overly political, Democrats tried to take a more somber tone with Trump’s guilty verdict.

Donald Trump is the first former president found guilty of a felony — 34 felony counts, in fact, for falsifying business records — and lawmakers from both parties are trying to make the most of it in very different ways.

In the minutes after the verdict, Republicans sent out fundraising pitches, reserving hardly any subtlety for their pleas.


Other Republicans — particularly the campaign arms for House and Senate Republicans — made their own appeals, overloading the GOP’s online fundraising platform, WinRed.

But most Democrats seemed to take a different approach.

While some Democratic lawmakers will almost certainly use the verdict to solicit donations — Rep. Jamaal Bowman broke the seal and celebrated with a donation link — President Joe Biden and the Democratic campaign arms avoided immediately using the 34 felony counts as a fundraising pitch.

Most Democratic lawmakers instead took a much more serious tone.

“Justice has prevailed,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, wrote in a text. “It’s about right and wrong, not a campaign.”

Thompson, who chaired the Jan. 6 Committee, suggested that Biden should avoid going too political on the guilty verdict, telling NOTUS that the president “should continue to communicate the positive issues of the day.”

A number of Democrats expressed concerns that blatantly trying to capitalize on the verdict would feed into GOP claims that the case was a political witch hunt and a sham trial.

Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove of California told NOTUS she doesn’t believe Democrats should campaign on Trump’s guilty verdict at all. “His true criminality lies in how he devastated Roe v. Wade, his plans for the country with [Project] 2025, his ruinous approach to the economy, his mistreatment of communities, his denial of science during the pandemic, and his revisionist approach to public safety,” she wrote in a text. “And that is what we should be campaigning on.”

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, who’s usually not shy of making a political point, also avoided taking the bait, making the case that the verdict is “not a victory for a single person, but rather an idea.”

“The idea that we all have to follow the same rules,” he told NOTUS. “That idea won today.”

Despite Democrats avoiding the obvious politics of the guilty verdict, Republicans nevertheless accused them of political motives.

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Republicans maintained that Democrats orchestrated the whole trial — which concerned hush money payments Trump made to women claiming they had sex with him before the 2016 election — to hurt his chances in the 2024 race. And they claimed that the justice system had been perverted to take down Trump.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida said the case was “an obvious and blatant travesty of justice.”

Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake claimed it was a “shameful political stunt.”

Georgia Rep. Austin Scott called it a “witch hunt.”

And Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York said it showed “how corrupt, rigged, and unAmerican the weaponized justice system has become under Joe Biden and Democrats,” while also including a list of ways she said she has “been a key ally to President Trump during this sham Biden trial.”

A GOP campaign official — who asked to speak anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the press — said the Republican messaging on the trial would be effective because it’s simple: Democrats are playing politics. And that messaging, this GOP official said, could appeal to moderates who feel squeamish about a former president facing a criminal trial.

“Biden wants to be able to say ‘convicted felon’ every single day, but I don’t think any of them want to litigate what actually happened here,” this Republican said.

“There are a lot of moderate lean-R’s who are turned off by this,” this GOP official continued. “They didn’t love Trump, but they don’t necessarily think this was just.”

Haley Byrd Wilt is a reporter at NOTUS. Tinashe Chingarande is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow. John T. Seward, a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow, and Oriana González, a reporter at NOTUS, contributed to this report.