Top 1 Magazine

Top One Magazine

Biden hits Trump over ‘unified Reich’ video but stays silent on trial

BOSTON — Donald Trump’s trial over alleged hush-money payments to a porn star has for weeks been a tantalizing bit of political fodder that Joe Biden has refused to touch.

With the former president now days away from a potentially election-altering verdict as his trial moves to closing arguments, Biden again stayed silent. But this time, he had another lever to pull.

In a pair of Boston fundraisers on Tuesday, Biden went off on Trump after the Republican’s campaign shared and later deleted a video that included a phrase — “unified Reich” — that nodded to Nazi Germany.

“It is not the first time Trump has gone down this road,” Biden said at his final event of the night, a more than 300-person fundraiser in Boston’s Seaport district. “Folks, it can’t be any clearer. The threat Trump poses is greater the second time around than it was the first.”

It was a sharp attack from the president that laid bare what he sees as a major vulnerability for his general election opponent: that he and his team are threats to democratic governance.

It also, to a degree, showed the lines that Biden remains unwilling to cross. Trump’s evoking the unified Reich is a clean hit, while his criminal troubles are better left to others. And some of Biden’s fellow Democrats say they’re fine with that choice.

“I just don’t think Joe Biden needs to get into a discussion about Donald Trump’s legal problems,” said Jim Demers, a longtime New Hampshire Democratic activist who helped run a write-in campaign on Biden’s behalf in the state’s presidential primary earlier this year.

“Joe Biden needs to continue what he’s doing, and that is running for reelection and focusing on what’s important to the American people and the issues that he has worked so hard for,” Demers said. “Building our economy, working on environmental issues, veterans issues like today — those are what people need to hear, rather than Donald Trump bellyaching about a judge who thinks he’s unfair to him.”

Not every Democrat buys Demers’ logic. Others in the party have urged Biden’s team to lean into Trump’s legal woes, framing them as further proof that he is unfit for office. But, short of a few quick jabs about “stormy weather” and being “free on Wednesdays” — when the trial has not been regularly in session — Biden has avoided doing so.

That approach has come from the top, with Biden instructing his team to largely stay silent about Trump’s criminal trials, according to aides.

In response, the Trump campaign said Biden is “the real threat to democracy with his weaponization of our justice system, wide open border invasion, and weak foreign policy that is leading our country straight into World War III.”

Biden took office looking to reinstall the bright line between the White House and the Department of Justice, one that he felt grew blurry under Trump. He told aides to not publicly discuss any criminal matters, particularly ones involving his predecessor, for fear of being accused of trying to influence the proceedings. Some of his aides also believe that there was no need for the president to amplify the criminal trial, which was already receiving outsized media attention even though it has not yet appreciably changed the contours of the campaign.

The president, his aides said, also recognized that his son Hunter faced legal jeopardy and he did not want to be seen as meddling in that matter either.

Polls show a Trump conviction could play to Biden’s benefit. A national ABC/Ipsos survey conducted shortly after the former president’s trial began in late April showed a fifth of Trump backers would either reconsider or drop their support if he’s convicted of a felony.

New polling of swing-state New Hampshire, shared first with POLITICO, shows similar results. In the UMass Lowell/YouGov survey of 600 likely New Hampshire voters, 23 percent of respondents said they would be “less likely” to vote for Trump if he is convicted of a crime that included jail time before the election, compared to 14 percent who said they would be “more likely” to pick his name on a ballot. The survey conducted online May 6-14 has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.24 percentage points.

Trump being on trial for allegedly conspiring to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star “diminishes his presidency,” said Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), who helped introduce Biden at a White House event in Nashua on Tuesday. “Voters are certainly aware, and horrified.”

But, she told POLITICO after the event, “President Biden needs to stay above that.”

Biden appeared to heed that advice while campaigning across New England on Tuesday. The president ignored his predecessor during his official-side stops in New Hampshire, where he met privately with veterans and spoke publicly about the ways in which his administration has expanded benefits for them.

Later, in a series of fundraisers in Boston, he tore into Trump over seemingly everything but his trial — his support of abortion restrictions and of the fossil-fuel industry, and his comments about there being a “blood bath” if he loses again.

Trump is “obsessed with losing in 2020, he’s clearly become unhinged. Just listen to him, he wants to become a dictator on Day One,” Biden said at his last event. “Well I’ll say what he can’t — there’s no place for violence in American politics. None.”

But the new focus was on the Reich video. The president touched on it during multiple stops on Tuesday, calling it un-American and cutting a 13-second, direct-to-camera video in which he expressed his dismay. In a sign that they see it as a golden opportunity, the campaign also put out a fundraising solicitation around the video — something it had not done with respect to the criminal trial.

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