President Joe Biden’s campaign showed up outside former President Donald Trump’s New York City criminal hush money trial on May 28 with actor Robert De Niro and a pair of former police officers in an effort to refocus the presidential race on the ex-president’s role in the January 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection.

It was a sharp about-face for President Biden’s team, which had largely ignored the trial since it began six weeks ago and is now looking to capitalize on its drama-filled closing moments, sending the “Goodfellas” actor and the first responders who were at the Capitol on January 6.

President Biden’s campaign had been wary about feeding into Trump’s unsupported rhetoric that his criminal trials were the result of politically motivated prosecutions. But it ultimately decided to engage because its message about the stakes of the election was struggling to break through the intense focus on the trial.

A top Biden adviser said they were not there to talk about the trial — and De Niro and the officers did not reference the sordid criminal case directly — rather to exploit the large media focus on the legal proceedings.

“We’re not here today because of what’s going on over there,” said Michael Tyler, a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, with a gesture toward the courthouse. “We’re here today because you all are here. You’ve been incessantly covering this day in and day out, and we want to remind the American people ahead of the … first debate on June 27 of the unique, persistent, and growing threat that Donald Trump poses to the American people and to our democracy. So since you all are here, we’re here communicating that message.”

The back-to-back press conferences were a sideshow to the main event playing out inside the courthouse, where closing arguments were underway in the only Trump trial likely to surface before the November election.

In remarks at Arlington National Cemetery in observance of Memorial Day on May 27, President Biden honored “the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of women and men who’ve given their lives for this nation. Each one … a link in the chain of honor stretching back to our founding days. Each one bound by common commitment—not to a place, not to a person, not to a President, but to an idea unlike any idea in human history: the idea of the United States of America.”

“[F]reedom has never been guaranteed,” President Biden said. “Every generation has to earn it; fight for it; defend it in battle between autocracy and democracy, between the greed of a few and the rights of many … And just as our fallen heroes have kept the ultimate faith with our country and our democracy, we must keep faith with them.”

His speech at Arlington echoed the message he delivered to this year’s graduating class at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he urged the graduates to hold fast to their oaths.

“On your very first day at West Point, you raised your right hands and took an oath—not to a political party, not to a president, but to the Constitution of the United States of America—against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” he said to applause. Soldiers “have given their lives for that Constitution. They have fought to defend the freedoms that it protects: the right to vote, the right to worship, the right to raise your voice in protest. They have saved and sacrificed to ensure, as President Lincoln said, a ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.’”

“[N]othing is guaranteed about our democracy in America. Every generation has an obligation to defend it, to protect it, to preserve it, to choose it,” President Biden said. “Now, it’s your turn.” The President spent more than an hour saluting and shaking the hand of each graduate.

In contrast, Trump ushered in Memorial Day with a post on his social media company, saying:

“Happy Memorial Day to All, including the Human Scum that is working so hard to destroy our Once Great Country, & to the Radical Left, Trump Hating Federal Judge in New York that presided over, get this, TWO separate trials, that awarded a woman, who I never met before (a quick handshake at a celebrity event, 25 years ago, doesn’t count!), 91 MILLION DOLLARS for “DEFAMATION.”

He then continued to attack E. Jean Carroll, the writer who successfully sued him for defamation, before turning to attack Judge Arthur Engoron, who presided over the civil case of Trump and the Trump Organization falsifying documents, and Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the current criminal case in New York.

The message behind this extraordinary post was twofold: Trump can think of nothing but himself…and he appears to be terrified.

Trump has been criminally indicted in two other trials directly related to his and collaborating Republican’s efforts to undo his 2020 loss to President Biden. A federal case in Washington is related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and a state case in Georgia accuses Trump of election interference.

The Biden campaign recently released a new ad that was narrated by De Niro sharply criticizing Trump’s presidency and plans if he is reelected.

“I don’t mean to scare you. No, wait, maybe I do mean to scare you,” De Niro told reporters. “If Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted.”

The actor cast himself as the true New Yorker and mocked Trump’s history of sometimes-unsuccessful business ventures and self-promotion, saying Trump was looking to “destroy” the city.

“We New Yorkers used to tolerate him when he was just another crappy real estate hustler masquerading as a big shot,” De Niro said. “I love this city. I don’t want to destroy it. Donald Trump wants to destroy not only the city but the country, and, eventually, he could destroy the world.”

Former Washington DC police officer Michael Fanone and former Capitol police officer Harry Dunn spoke of their personal experiences on January 6, with Fanone describing his injuries suffered at the hands of the mob of Trump supporters seeking to halt Congress’ certification of Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.

“I came here today to remind Americans of what Donald Trump is capable of and the violence that he unleashed on all of Americans on January 6, 2021,” Fanone said.

The two former officers were also witnesses during a congressional investigation of the January 6, 2021, riot. Hundreds of law enforcement officers were beaten and bloodied in the attack by Trump supporters, who descended after a rally and smashed into the Capitol while Trump remained silent for hours.

“Americans need to wake up. This is not a drill,” said Harry Dunn, a former Capitol police officer who ran unsuccessfully for office in Maryland. “We can’t count on these institutions to stop Donald Trump. It’s going to take us Americans at the ballot box to defeat him once and for all.”

Colleen Long, Zeke Miller, and MI Staff

Associated Press


Seth Wenig (AP)