Biden White House Says They’re Not Paying Attention to Trump Case as Former President Is Arraigned

Biden White House Says They’re Not Paying Attention to Trump Case as Former President Is Arraigned
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing at the White House on April 4, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The White House said President Joe Biden is staying focused on other issues and not closely following along with the charges against former President Donald Trump.

“The president’s going to focus on the American people like he does every day, this is not something that is a focus for him,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a Tuesday White House press briefing.

The Biden administration has remained relatively tight-lipped about the recent indictment against his 2020 rival and potential 2024 opponent. On March 20, after Trump announced he expected to be charged in Manhattan, Jean-Pierre said, “We do not comment on any ongoing investigations from here. We’ve been very consistent on that.” On Friday, after Bragg’s office confirmed the charges, Biden told members of the press he has “no comment on Trump.”

After the arraignment hearing on Tuesday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office published the 16-page indictment and 13-page statement of facts in the case. The documents indicated Trump was charged with 34 counts of the same charge, falsifying business records. The charging documents alleged Trump facilitated the falsification of these business records by making payments to buy the silence of people planning to share negative allegations about him.

Bragg’s office alleged Trump facilitated the payment through a lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has since pled guilty to a campaign finance violation over the matter and argued that Trump had wrongfully classified monthly repayment installments to Cohen as an ongoing fee for legal services.

While Jean-Pierre said Biden’s attention is on advancing his policies, she conceded that Biden has caught some information about the Trump case in passing.

“Of course, this is playing out on many of the networks here on a daily basis for hours and hours, so obviously he will catch parts of the news,” she said.

As Jean-Pierre faced a follow-up question about the Trump case, she reiterated that Biden had not had prior knowledge of the indictment.

Biden’s No-Comment Policy

Jean-Pierre repeatedly said she was maintaining the White House’s policy of avoiding commenting on the case, at one point joking, “I love how you guys are asking me this in different ways.”

One reporter at the White House press briefing put the Biden White House’s stated policy of not commenting on the Trump case up against the administration’s repeated comments about the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

“The president has spoken repeatedly about Jan. 6. He gave at least two major speeches that I can think of,” New York Times reporter Michael Shear said. “There were more than 500 active legal cases going on during the time that he made those speeches, all of which potentially could have been affected, would have been affected by whatever his opinions were on the circumstances surrounding those cases.”

Jean-Pierre responded that the circumstances of Biden’s comments on Jan. 6 were different because the events of that day were “an attack on our democracy” and warranted comments by the president.

“Jan. 6 was a different moment, it just was,” she said. “It was something that was incredibly devastating, people died in that day and were harmed.”

Comments on Potential for Unrest

Trump and his supporters have accused Bragg of bringing a politicized case against the former president. Even before Bragg’s office announced the charges, Trump predicted the effort to prosecute him could inspire social unrest and bring about “potential death and destruction.”

While the Biden White House has avoided commenting directly on the charges against Trump, Biden did say on Monday that he is not concerned about social unrest surrounding a case. When asked “Are you concerned about unrest?” Biden replied, “No, I have faith in the New York Police Department.”

When a reporter asked about Biden’s comments about unrest on Tuesday, the White House said the administration is not aware of any credible threats but said, “We are prepared.”

“We’ve been always very clear, any form of violence, that is something we condemn from here, but not going to—anything that is touching or relating to the case we’re just not going to comment from here,” Jean-Pierre said.

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