Republicans call for "revenge" in response to Trump's conviction : Trump's Trials For this episode of Trump's Trials, host Scott Detrow speaks with NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.

It's been a little over a week since a jury found former President Donald Trump guilty of 34 felony counts in the New York hush money trial. Unsurprisingly, Republicans and conservative commentators have stood by Trump claiming, without evidence, that the trial was "rigged." Along with those false claims, conservatives are also calling for Trump to exact "revenge" if he's elected as president and back in control of the Justice Department.

Topics include:
- Republican response to conviction
- Threats of revenge
- Trump fundraising

Follow the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify for new episodes each Saturday.

Sign up for sponsor-free episodes and support NPR's political journalism at

Email the show at

Republicans call for "revenge" in response to Trump's conviction

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR, it's TRUMP'S TRIALS. I'm Scott Detrow.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) We love Trump. We love Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: This is a persecution.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: He actually just stormed out of the courtroom.


JACK SMITH: Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

DETROW: For the first time in American history, a political party's nominee for president will be a convicted felon. But that's not causing Republicans to shy away from Donald Trump, who, you may recall, will be sentenced next month just days before the Republican convention gets underway in Milwaukee. In fact, the opposite is happening. Republican officials and conservative commentators are not only defending Trump. They are also casting doubt on the judicial system itself.


TOM COTTON: This case was rigged from the very beginning.

ELISE STEFANIK: ...Corrupt, rigged and un-American the weaponized justice system has become under Joe Biden and Democrats.

TED CRUZ: This was not law. This was not criminal justice. This was politics. This was a political smear job.

MIKE JOHNSON: They're eroding the people's faith in our system of justice itself.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yesterday was a conviction of the American legal system.

STEVE SCALISE: Allowing his agencies to go after political opponents.

JESSE WATTERS: Democrat jury, Democrat judge, Democrat prosecutor.

DETROW: To be clear, we do not know the party affiliation of any members of the jury. Political details like that were carefully screened out of the process when it was being seated. Judge Juan Merchan did give the Biden campaign $15 in 2020. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is a Democrat, but since it was a state-level trial, the Department of Justice and the Biden administration had no involvement or say in how Bragg's office handled the case. In fact, the DOJ chose not to prosecute Trump for any of these crimes. The details of the criminal justice system have often been flattened out as conservative politicians and pundits have responded over the past week, and many of them have also repeatedly focused on one thing - retribution and revenge.


TRUMP: Sometimes, revenge can be justified.

MEGYN KELLY: And these Democrats will rue the day they decided to use lawfare to stop a presidential candidate.

WATTERS: We're going to vanquish the evil forces that are destroying this republic.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Buckle up, guys, and also lawyer up.

TRUMP: It's a terrible, terrible path that they're leading us to. And it's very possible that it's going to have to happen to them.

STEPHEN MILLER: Is every Republican state AG opening investigations into voter fraud right now? Is every House committee controlled by Republicans using its subpoena power?

DETROW: There are calls from some corners to find charges against prominent Democrats like President Biden and Hillary Clinton or Alvin Bragg. And even as Trump has repeatedly falsely accused Biden of manipulating the justice system for political purposes, he has been clear, as you just heard, he would use the Department of Justice to target opponents if he returns to the White House next year. What's it all mean, especially in the context of an ongoing election? We will talk it through after the break with senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Stick around.

We're back. Domenico Montanaro, how are you?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Scott. I'm good. How are you?

DETROW: I'm good. None of this that we just heard is really a surprise. We've been....


DETROW: ...Talking about it for years. We were seeing it play out in real time minutes after the verdict came down. I still think it's worth taking a moment to examine how specifically Republican officials are responding here.

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, as you heard there, I mean, they're entirely, you know, behind Trump. They have his back. In fact, if anyone speaks out differently, MAGA is coming for them, basically. I mean, case in point here, Larry Hogan, who's the former Maryland governor running for the Senate now, the Republican who's been critical of Trump in the past, said that people should, quote, "respect the verdict" and that, quote, "all leaders should," quote, "reaffirm what has made this nation great - the rule of law." That didn't go over very well. Immediately, Trump's campaign manager, Chris LaCivita, responded on Twitter, saying, quote, "you just ended your campaign" and that Hogan, quote, "doesn't deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point and frankly, anybody in America."

DETROW: Which is wild because, first of all, that is just a mundane statement, right? And secondly, this is a Republican who has a decent chance of winning in a deeply Democratic state. You would think that Republicans would be on board with that. But no, the opposite.

MONTANARO: No, and I think that you heard that in some of the clips there. You know, are Republicans doing everything they can - Stephen Miller - using their subpoena power? Almost telling them...


MONTANARO: ...Instructing them how Trump wants them to be acting, how they could have Trump's back better, taking those instructions. I think it's really instructive of how Republicans are rallying around Trump. I mean, including, of course, the Republicans who are auditioning to be his vice presidential running mate, and members of Congress who are taking some, I'd say, performative actions, really, because these are not things that are going to really pass.

DETROW: It's still worth kind of hearing out what they are, though, because I think that says a lot.

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, take Jim Jordan, Congressman from Ohio. He's chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He's targeting cutting funding, for example, for Trump prosecutions. We know that there are two federal cases that the Justice Department is pursuing related to January 6 and a classified documents case, neither of which is expected to come before the election now.

DETROW: Right.

MONTANARO: A bill was introduced by a Republican from South Carolina that literally would allow a former president or vice president to, quote, "remove to federal court a civil action or criminal prosecution brought against them in state court," of course, because a president can't, you know, get rid of anything that a state does - only has control over federal pardons. Eight Republican senators are also vowing to vote against all Democratic legislation, which, by the way, is not that much of a change...

DETROW: Right.

MONTANARO: ...I have to say...

DETROW: Right.

MONTANARO: ...Because Republicans in the last 15 years have been more obstructionist than really looking to work constructively with Democrats. And when some have, they've been blocked, especially - I'm thinking of something like immigration, even this past year, having James Lankford from Oklahoma working with President Biden to try to get some stricter border enforcement in and having that blocked by his peers. You know, Trump was tried and convicted by a jury of his peers. Of course, Republicans justify their actions, echoing Trump's language, saying that the trial was rigged.

DETROW: Everything that does not turn out his way seems to be rigged.

MONTANARO: It's rigged.


MONTANARO: Yeah. This podcast is rigged. You talked more than me (laughter).

DETROW: I think you talked more than me but...

MONTANARO: That might be, but too bad.

DETROW: Look - we've been focusing in on Republican lawmakers, high-level Republican officials, the conservative media ecosystem here. But you have been making the point all year that that is an important part of it, but that is not the entire universe, especially in electing a president in an upcoming election. A lot of people...


DETROW: ...Outside of that. How does this rhetoric play with the broader electorate?

MONTANARO: Well, look. I think a lot of people are going to be reading into all the polls that are coming out, what's happening, you know, granularly. Let's get into it a little bit. But I will say just overall, I think we can definitely say it's been a net negative in polling overall for Trump, but really on the margins. For example, The New York Times and Siena recontacted 2,000 respondents and found that Trump had a reduced advantage by one point. Echelon Insights, which is a Republican pollster, found that Biden was gaining two points.

Same for a Reuters/Ipsos poll. An Emerson College poll found that Trump's lead declined from three points to one point. An ABC News/Ipsos poll showed that half think the verdict was correct and that Trump now should end his campaign. OK? But another 47% think that the case was politically motivated. I guess not surprising since that sort of mirrors the divide in this country over Trump.

DETROW: And you are often cautioning us to not overread things within the margin of error. But look - especially in the states that will decide the election, it's going to be a margin-of-error election.

MONTANARO: Yeah, I still say, though, don't overread the margins. I mean, this is really - I hate to, you know, echo the cliche of turnout's what's most important or whatever, but it really does come down to that because you have these base groups on either side that are not happy with Biden, for example, younger voters, younger Black voters, Latinos. They do seem potentially movable by this. We found in our polling that about a quarter of people under 45 years old were less likely to vote for Trump if he was convicted.

He's been convicted, but they were always less likely to vote for Trump anyway, and just saying that you're less likely doesn't mean that's what you absolutely will do. You know, and again, like you said, these changes are marginal, within margins of error, literally. But this is expected to be a close election. The shifts could be important at the margins. We'll have to wait and see at least, I think, a couple of weeks. I like to talk about how these shifts - whether or not they hold or if they're just temporary bumps. And remember, we've seen temporary bumps that have then declined...

DETROW: Right.

MONTANARO: ...Previously, things like good State of the Union addresses by President Biden. The "Access Hollywood tape" in 2016 - Trump really declined by a few points at that point, but, you know, his support bounced back, and he still won the election.

DETROW: Yep. And then we spent eight years later, a month litigating that moment in a courtroom...


DETROW: ...Which was an interesting full-circle moment in the world of Trump. Going to credit our producer Tyler Bartlam here, who not only went through hours and hours of conservative media to pull all the clips that we heard but also went through a lot of the Trump campaign fundraising emails that were sent out in the last weeks. I will read just some of the headlines. My father is a political prisoner. I've been convicted in a kangaroo court. Crooked Joe Biden threw the book at me. So on and so on and so on, really directly appealing to core supporters. This has worked. This has raised a lot of money for Trump, and that had been a problem for him up to this point.

MONTANARO: Well, the campaign is saying that in May - that they've raised $141 million, which will make a significant dent in helping the Trump campaign catch back up to the Biden campaign, who's had a pretty significant advantage all along in this. That includes what the Trump campaign said - and I can't honestly believe this number, but it's apparently real - $53 million the Trump campaign said it raised in the 24 hours after the conviction. I mean, that's a huge number, probably record-setting single day for maybe any campaign. They raised $12 million, the campaign also says, Thursday night at an event in Silicon Valley. So there's not going to be a shortage of money for either of these campaigns. How they spend it, though, very different at this point.

DETROW: Including Trump's run - presidential campaign will be spending the money politically, but we know he has spent millions and millions of these campaign dollars on his legal fees.

MONTANARO: Yeah, groups supporting him for sure. But Trump's certainly using this conviction, as he did during the indictments, to try to help him shore up his base and raise money. Again, does that mean that independents, persuadable voters in key states are going to look fondly on this? We don't know. But again, the economy still remains - prices, inflation, people's ability to buy houses, interest rates seem to be more of the top issue and the biggest concern for people than Trump's conviction.

DETROW: On the topic, though, of attacking the judiciary and on this ongoing theme of parallel paths playing out in the courtrooms and on the campaign trail, it's worth taking a moment again to point out how differently Trump and his allies talk about these things, when they're under oath, when they're in a courtroom, than when they're on conservative media or on the campaign trail.

MONTANARO: Oh, no doubt about it. I mean, Donald Trump himself, if you watch depositions of his, the things that he'll say outside the courtroom are not the things that he would say under oath with his hand raised and having to be subject to the rules of perjury. It's very, very different. And we've seen that from people like Rudy Giuliani, who was certainly pushing fraud as something that happened in 2020, even though there's plenty of evidence to support the fact that it was not. More than 60 court cases show that the election was free and fair and the most scrutinized election in American history. But when Rudy Giuliani went to court, he was saying, this is not a fraud case. We're not talking about fraud. And including somebody like Jenna Ellis, who was also a Trump attorney.

DETROW: Right. One of Trump's co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case, which is sprawling with many, many co-defendants. She's one of four who have already pleaded guilty in this case. And she said this when she made a statement to the court.


JENNA ELLIS: What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were, in fact, true. I look back on this full experience with deep remorse.

DETROW: And I think a point that Carrie Johnson has made several times is the Georgia case for all of the controversies it's gone through - multiple people who have already pleaded guilty. And jury after jury, when they have taken up these cases that Trump and his critics attack, saying that they're being targeted, have come back with guilty verdicts.

MONTANARO: Yeah, what's remarkable is Trump will say, well, when you're facing jail time, almost anybody will plead guilty to take the plea. I find that to be really fascinating as a political spin because these folks don't have to plead guilty. If you're innocent, you're not going to necessarily plead guilty because you're afraid of potential jail time. She's admitting here saying that...

DETROW: Especially with the resources to hire a good lawyer.

MONTANARO: Right. I mean, she's admitting here - and she's a lawyer, saying that, you know, that she should have checked to see if things were true. And that's true of all of the folks who undertook this effort to overturn the legitimate 2020 presidential election results. And really, at this point, it's really ironic that the only conviction, the only trial we're likely to see, is this one in New York, which people thought was the weakest case and not related to the 2020 election at all when those cases seem to have - you know, Trump has been able to death by a thousand cuts sort of delay these cases to be on the election.

DETROW: All right. So a week later, just taking a look at how this is all affecting the political moment. We will continue following that. We will continue following the possible likely appeals in that case. And a reminder to everybody about the next big courtroom moment in all of these criminal cases against Trump. We are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a ruling on whether or not sitting presidents have legal immunity.

This is an argument that Trump was trying to make to avoid prosecution in one of the federal criminal cases he is facing. We're expecting a ruling in the coming weeks. We're in that June stretch where the Supreme Court issues all of its major rulings of the term. That will affect a lot of things, including when Trump would face a criminal trial in that case. So when there's a ruling, we will sort through it on this podcast. Domenico Montanaro, thanks again for joining us.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

DETROW: We'll be back next week with another episode of TRUMP'S TRIALS. Thanks to our supporters who hear the show sponsor-free. If that is not you, still could be. You could sign up at or subscribe on our show page at Apple Podcasts. This show is produced by Tyler Bartlam and edited by Adam Raney, Krishnadev Calamur and Steve Drummond. Our executive producers are Beth Donovan and Sami Yenigun. Eric Marrapodi is NPR's vice president of news programming.

I'm Scott Detrow. Thanks for listening to TRUMP'S TRIALS from NPR.


Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.