Biden has maintained muted approach toward Trump trial, as jurors deliberate

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally in Philadelphia, May 29, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- As New York City jurors deliberate over whether to convict former President Donald Trump on charges that he falsified business records to hide a payment to an adult film star from the American public before the 2016 election, it's still not clear how President Joe Biden would address a potential guilty verdict.

Such a verdict would create an unprecedented situation: a major candidate for president convicted on criminal charges. The trial could also result in a hung jury or a not guilty verdict.

While generally speaking, running against a convicted felon could be a political gift, the Biden campaign is unlikely to dramatically alter its messaging if the jurors find Trump guilty, a senior campaign official told ABC News.

The only way to stop Trump is at the ballot box, the official said, that Trump's future is up to voters, not the court.

Biden has largely made just in-passing references to his opponent's trial.

On the first day of the trial, in April, when a reporter asked Biden if he would watch coverage of the proceedings, the president shook his head, "no."

Two days later, while discussing Trump's economic record at a Pittsburgh event, Biden noted that his predecessor "is busy right now" -- a reference to the ongoing trial.

That same week, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the president criticized Trump's treatment of women, a possible veiled reference to the trial, where Stormy Daniels, the pornstar Trump paid off, described leaving a sexual interaction with Trump "shaking." Trump has long denied the sexual encounter.

Speaking about being put on a most-eligible bachelors list after his first wife died, Biden said, "Unlike the guy running, I didn't take advantage of any [women]."

As Biden and Trump challenged the other to debate, Biden said he knows Trump was "free on Wednesdays" -- a dig that stemmed from Trump's hush money trial not being in session on Wednesdays. Biden's campaign even sold "Free on Wednesdays" t-shirts.

Asked on Wednesday how much attention Biden has paid to the Trump trial as jurors deliberate, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she hadn't spoken to the president about it.

"The president is focused on the American people -- delivering for the American people," Jean-Pierre said in response.

Biden campaign aides have been similarly coy.

"Through sunny days and stormy nights, Joe Biden's campaign isn't about fighting through his own trials, tribulations and personal grievances," James Singer, a campaign spokesman, wrote in a statement during the trial's opening week.

The campaign broke precedent this week, however, dispatching actor Robert De Niro and two former police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to downtown Manhattan to speak to reporters near the courthouse.

"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 can destroy the world," De Niro said.

Michael Tyler, a campaign communications director for the Biden campaign, nevertheless tried to distance the press conference from the trial.

"We're not here today because of what's going on over there," he said, pointing to the courthouse. "We're here today because you all are."

Thursday, May 30, 2024 at 6:20AM by Will McDuffie, Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, and Fritz Farrow, ABC News Permalink