Trump rages against conviction and calls America a 'fascist state'

Republican presidential candidate vows to appeal after being found guilty of 34 criminal charges

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Former US president and convicted felon Donald Trump on Friday attacked the judge who oversaw his criminal case, said America is a “fascist state” and falsely asserted the prosecution had been engineered by the Biden administration.

Trump's comments at Trump Tower in New York came a day after jurors found him guilty of 34 criminal charges, making him the first president in US history to become a convicted felon.

He repeatedly professed his innocence while addressing his conviction on the felony counts in a case that accused him of trying to influence the 2016 presidential election by making illegal hush money payments to an adult film actress.

“There was no crime here,” 77-year-old Trump said, vowing to appeal against the verdict.

“I paid a lawyer, totally legal. I paid a lawyer, a legal expense,” he said while attempting to explain why he was convicted.

He went on to say: “We're living in a fascist state,” and attacked the judge who oversaw the case as “conflicted” and “crooked”.

Trump remains under a gag order and has been threatened with jail if he violates it. Some of his rhetoric about witnesses in the trial veered perilously close to violating the order.

He is locked in a tight race with President Joe Biden ahead of the November 5 election and repeatedly accused his rival of orchestrating the criminal prosecution.

There is no evidence the Biden administration had any contact with prosecutors in the case.

Trump took multiple shots at Mr Biden during his rambling, 40-minute tirade that at times sounded like a campaign event.

“I'm the leading candidate. I'm leading Biden by a lot and I'm leading the Republicans to the point where that's over,” he said.

“So I'm the leading person for president and I'm under a gag order by a man that can't put two sentences together, given by a court and they are in total conjunction with the White House and the [Department of Justice] just so you understand. This is all done by Biden and his people.”

Trump said the trial was “very unfair” and blamed “Washington” for his situation and sought to portray himself as a victim.

“I'm out there and I don't mind being out there because I'm doing something for this country and I'm doing something for our Constitution,” he said.

“It's very important and goes far beyond me. This can't be allowed to happen to other presidents.”

He called the system “rigged” against him, and after the verdict was announced, he declared that he was “a political prisoner” in an online campaign advert.

Mr Biden hit back against Trump's allegations, defending America's legal system.

“Our justice system has endured for nearly 250 years and it literally is the cornerstone of America,” Mr Biden said.

He went on to slam Trump for questioning the justice system.

“It's reckless, it's dangerous. It's irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged, just because they don't like the verdict,” he said.

At the heart of the case was the charge that Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels – and then tried to cover it up – to ensure her silence about their alleged one-night stand in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Trump denies he slept with Daniels.

Falsifying business records carries a prison sentence of up to four years. But as a first-time offender, it is unlikely that New York prosecutors will seek a jail term.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 11 – only days before Trump is expected to be nominated as the Republican candidate for the presidential election.

The guilty verdict does not prevent Trump from the rematch with Mr Biden on November 5 for a second term in the White House.

Arab-American reaction

Victor Shiblie, a Palestinian American and publisher of The Washington Diplomat, said it is too soon to say how Trump's conviction will impact the November election and how Arab Americans will respond.

“Anybody who's looked at American elections knows that there's a long way to go, and public opinion can sway very quickly, and even at the last minute,” Mr Shiblie told The National.

He said that historically, the reason Arab Americans have voted for Democrats is over foreign policy, but this could change, given the anger against Mr Biden over his handling of the Israel-Gaza war.

“Biden has failed them,” Mr Shiblie said. “So now people are re-evaluating. Most don’t want to vote for Trump, but some will.”

Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York – in pictures

Updated: May 31, 2024, 6:21 PM