Election 2024

3 ways Republicans are trying to use Trump’s conviction to their advantage

A supporter outside a fundraising event for Donald Trump in San Francisco on Thursday isn't put off by his conviction.
Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

For the first time in American history, a political party is set to nominate a felon as its presidential candidate.

Republicans continue to rally around Donald Trump, who was found guilty in the New York hush money trial on May 30. He will be sentenced on July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention begins in Milwaukee.

The team at NPR's Trump's Trials podcast broke down three ways the GOP is trying to use Trump’s conviction to the party's advantage.

Donald Trump participates in a town hall event at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Ariz., on Thursday.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

1) Rally the base

Within minutes of hearing the jury’s decision in Trump’s hush money case, Republican lawmakers flocked to his defense and attacked detractors.

That wasn’t surprising. In fact, after Republican Senate candidate Larry Hogan, who is seen as a moderate and has been critical of Trump, wrote on the social media platform X that Americans should “respect the verdict” and that “all leaders” should “reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law,” Trump adviser Chris LaCivita responded: “You just ended your campaign.”

Trump is expected to appeal the conviction after he is sentenced. For now, he is continuing to cast doubt on the judicial system.

Trump and his allies have, without evidence, said the case was “rigged,” accused the justice system of being “weaponized” by the Biden administration, and claimed the case was politically motivated. In doing so, they are seeking to cast suspicion on the validity of Trump’s guilty verdict and further paint him as the victim of a conspiracy led by the Biden administration.

To be clear, the Department of Justice and the Biden administration were not involved in this case. That’s because this was a state case (which also means Trump would not be able to pardon himself if he wins the election in November).

A supporter holds a sign reading "Our Favorite Felon" outside a fundraising event for Donald Trump on Thursday.
Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

2) Revenge

Conservatives' false claims that the trial was rigged are often followed by calls for revenge.

Fox News host Jesse Watters said on X, “We’re going to get back up and vanquish the evil forces that are destroying this republic.” Conservative commentator Megyn Kelly said on her radio show, “These Democrats will rue the day they decided to use lawfare to stop a presidential candidate.”

Others have suggested pursuing legal action against the prosecutors and judge involved in the hush money case.

Trump himself was asked about retribution in an interview with Dr. Phil on Friday. In the interview, Dr. Phil said he believed that revenge and retribution was unhealthy for the country and Trump did not have time to “get even” if elected president again. Trump responded by saying: “Revenge does take time, I will say that. And sometimes revenge can be justified.”

3) Money

The Trump campaign claims it raised $53 million in the first 24 hours after the verdict, and $141 million for the entire month of May. NPR Senior Political Editor and Correspondent Domenico Montanaro points out, “[This] will make a significant dent in helping the Trump campaign catch back up to the Biden campaign, who’s had a significant advantage all along.”

But Trump may not use all this money on the campaign. As Trump’s Trials reported in February, about $50 million, up until that point, had been diverted from one of his political PACs to pay for his legal fees.

“Trump’s certainly using this conviction, as he did the indictments, to try to help him shore up his base and raise money,” Montanaro said. “But again, does that mean independents, persuadable voters in key states, are going to look fondly [at this]? We don’t know.”

What to watch: In the coming weeks, we are expecting the Supreme Court to release its decision on whether sitting presidents have legal immunity. Trump is claiming he cannot be prosecuted for his alleged actions surrounding the attempts to overturn the 2020 election because he was president and therefore immune. The court’s decision will determine if the federal election interference case goes to trial at all.

Want to dive more into the details and how the Trump campaign is trying to seize this moment? Listen to the full episode of the Trump’s Trials podcast.

Copyright 2024 NPR

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