Though it seemed that his camp was initially reticent to address the specifics of the indictment, Trump went into a detailed defense before a crowd at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club. He presented alternate histories, legal disinformation, and false claims of political victimization to craft a narrative that he seemed to believe his followers will accept as fact, reports Vox.
The speech previewed a strategy to neutralize the impact of a case that could stretch well into the 2024 election and beyond. It mirrors Trump’s successful approach to negating previous threats to his political power, including congressional investigations into his involvement in the January 6, 2021, insurrection and potential collusion between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
Trump cast his second indictment — for allegedly refusing to return classified documents to federal authorities after he left the White House — as a plot against him, calling it “election interference” and “yet another attempt to rig and steal a presidential election.”
“Threatening me with 400 years in prison for possessing my own presidential papers … is one of the most outrageous and vicious legal theories ever put forward in an American court of law,” he said. “They ought to drop this case immediately.”
With the media spotlight on him Tuesday, Trump seized the opportunity to try convincing his party that the latest indictment is more about persecution than prosecution. If history is any indication, pursuing that strategy may help Trump convince his supporters that he did not do anything wrong, even if a Miami jury ultimately finds him guilty of some or all of the 37 counts against him.
Trump argued Tuesday that he’s subject to a nefarious double standard given that his political opponents have never faced charges in connection to retaining documents from their public service.
As “evidence,” he cited cases involving President Biden, 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton. Classified documents were found in Biden’s personal office and at his Delaware home. Hillary Clinton used a private, unsecured email server while serving as secretary of state that stored discussions of classified information (but not classified documents themselves). Bill Clinton kept tapes in his sock drawer documenting an oral history of his time in the White House.
Trump failed to mention that Biden promptly turned over those documents; there is no evidence that he or Hillary Clinton tried to obstruct justice; and a court found that Bill Clinton’s tapes were personal records that did not need to be turned over to the National Archives.