Trump rages, Biden struggles to tame the war in Gaza: The contrasting days of a former and current president

Former President Trump stood in the lobby of his namesake office tower in New York on Friday morning, lashing out at “fascists” in the government, a “sleazebag” star witness and a judge who is “crooked,” “a devil,” “a tyrant” and “can’t put two sentences together.”

He complained for 40 minutes about a “rigged trial” that resulted in his 34 felony convictions Thursday, detailing procedural objections as he vowed an appeal, while occasionally insisting that “it’s not about me.”

President Biden had a more typical day for an incumbent head of state, returning to the White House from an overnight stay at his Delaware beach house to welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to celebrate their Super Bowl win, meet with Belgium’s prime minister behind closed doors and deliver public remarks unveiling a proposed cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

The American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed

— President Biden

Friday offered the type of contrast that Biden and his allies have been trying to showcase for months: between a president performing a normal mix of duties that range from the ceremonial to the profound and a former president mired in his insular world of grievance.

“The American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed,” Biden said from the State Dining Room on Friday before delivering his Middle East proposal. “It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict.”

Biden won the White House in 2020 with a promise to return to normalcy, offering his five decades in mainstream politics as a steadying alternative to Trump’s chaotic pandemic news conferences and shattering of norms that would lead ultimately to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Trump has sought to remake this nation in his image: selfish, angry, dark and divisive,” Biden said in 2020. “This is not who we are. At our best, America’s always been — and if I have anything to do with it — it will be again, generous, confident, an optimistic nation, full of hope and resolve.”

But four years later, polls show that the nation remains deeply divided, pessimistic and concerned about the future and that a large share of voters have forgotten much of the turbulence of the Trump era, or at least decided they are willing to live with it. The former president has a slight edge in national and swing state polls, with voters giving him credit for the pre-pandemic economy while blaming Biden for the inflation that came with the recovery.

It remains unclear whether Thursday’s verdicts in the election interference trial will alter those dynamics.

Trump supporters have stuck with him through any number of crises that would have sunk other politicians, including the insurrection, two impeachments and numerous former officials from his inner circle calling him unfit to serve. His three other criminal cases remain unresolved and will probably hang over him during the November election.

So far, I guess it’s backfired

— Former President Trump on his conviction

Trump boasted Friday of what he said was a record $39-million fundraising haul that came in the first 10 hours after his conviction. (The numbers have not yet been officially reported or verified.)

“So far, I guess it’s backfired,” he said of the prosecution brought by New York’s district attorney, for which he has falsely blamed Biden, before agreeing that he would have preferred to skip the ordeal and defeat Biden “legitimately.”

He also returned to the themes his advisors hope will win him a return to the Oval Office, including his mainstays of immigration and “rampant crime.” But the former president who campaigns on law and order is now basing much of his case for reelection on calling out the criminal justice system as rigged and “a scam,” at least when it applies to him.

When Larry Hogan, a Republican former governor running for Senate in Maryland, tweeted that people should “respect the verdict and the legal process” Thursday night, a top Trump aide, Chris LaCivita, rebuked him immediately on the social media platform X.

“You just ended your campaign,” LaCivita wrote.

Biden has tried to seize that ground from Trump. But after he defended the rule of law on Friday, the subject of his subsequent remarks offered a reminder that life is different for an incumbent president than a challenger.

Biden has been unable to end the war in Gaza, which has sparked mass protests on college campuses and anger from many on the left who blame him for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and thousands of deaths of Palestinians. Even as Biden urged the Israeli military to avoid civilian deaths, he has supported Israel’s right to defend itself after Hamas killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 250 Oct 7.

Biden on Friday detailed a three-phase deal proposed by Israel that he says would lead to the release of hostages in Gaza and could end the conflict with Hamas. Previous attempts at a deal have failed, provoking further anger on the left that he was enabling Israel’s assault, coupled with criticism from Israel’s moderate and conservative allies that he was wavering in his support as he tried to pressure the government to scale down its counteroffensive.

“I know this is a subject on which people in this country feel deep, passionate conviction,” Biden said Friday. “So do I. It’s been one of the hardest, most complicated problems in the world.”

Trump had no further public events planned for Friday.

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Kevin harson

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