Trump says he wanted to testify in hush money trial; campaign has raised $34.8 million off case

NEW YORK — Donald Trump, Republican front-runner and now convicted felon, said Friday he wanted to testify in his own defense at his hush money trial but was worried about getting sued over what he might have said on the stand.

“To this day I would’ve liked to have testified, but you get something slightly wrong,” like the weather, “and they’ll sue you for perjury,” he said during a news conference held the morning after being convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to keep his alleged tryst with Stormy Daniels from the American electorate.

During a rambling half-hour speech from Trump Tower, one of the scenes of his crimes, Trump told the packed lobby that he plans on appealing the verdict, called the judge a “devil,” and touted leads he’s gained in polls.

The 77-year-old Trump also repeated his criticism of the case against him – though his campaign says it had raised more than $34.8 million off becoming the first American president in the nation’s history to be convicted of a crime.

Trump appeared back in his element, speaking in the same lobby where he descended the golden escalator to announce his bid for the presidency in 2015. The scene was a far cry from the dark, echoing hallway at the downtown courthouse he traversed daily these last weeks. Still, Trump looked fatigued and wore a dull expression just before stepping up to the podium.

Trump used the platform to take another shot at one of the state’s key witnesses, fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen, in what may have been a violation of the gag order still in place prohibiting comments about trial participants.

“You know, he’s a sleaze bag,” Trump said.

Calling the trial “rigged” and that it was carried out with President Joe Biden and the Justice Department, Trump said he would “continue the fight” by appealing the verdict and pushing forward to Election Day this November. He veered into other national hot-button issues, including immigration.

He also indirectly talked about porn star Stormy Daniels, again denying sleeping with her and slammed Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who presided over the trial, saying some witnesses were “literally crucified by this man who looks like an angel, but he’s really a devil.”

“There was no crime,” Trump said in remarks to reporters in the lobby of his namesake Fifth Ave. skyscraper. “We’re gonna be appealing this scam. We’re going to be appealing it on many different things.”

The former president did not take questions.

In criticizing Merchan, Trump appeared to refer to a conspiracy theory about the judge’s daughter, which Trump boosted before the trial — that she was profiting from her dad’s rulings at her job as a Democrat consultant — skirting close to another potential gag order violation.

“Nobody wants to write about it and I’m not allowed to talk about it. If I do, he said I’ll get put in jail. So we’ll play that game a little longer. We won’t talk about it. But you’re allowed to talk about it,” Trump said.

When asked about a potential violation, Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, told The New York Daily News, “I’m not worried.”

An Office of Court Administration spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Cohen, in a text, said, “Trump’s press conference was nothing shy of a bat --t crazy avalanche of broken brain word manure.”

Trump learned his fate just after 5 p.m. Thursday, with a jury that had few questions taking less than 12 hours over two days to find him guilty of committing felonies after he ascended to the White House by filing fake paperwork to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen shelled out 11 days before the election.

In determining Trump guilty, the jurors found him responsible for fraudulently filing 11 checks to Cohen, 11 corresponding invoices, and 12 entries in the Trump Organization’s general ledger, classified as payment for generic legal services and not reimbursement for hush money.

The jury found Trump falsified the records to conceal an underlying criminal conspiracy to promote his candidacy by unlawful means after hearing the prosecution’s monthlong case laying out the plot to pay off the porn star and others with what prosecutors said were effectively illegal campaign contributions to boost his standing with voters.

While Thursday’s outcome will go down as one of the most consequential moments in American politics and to ever play out in one of the nation’s courtrooms, Trump is expected to fight it to the bitter end — a process that could take years.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg declined to say whether prosecutors will request Trump serve prison time when he returns for his sentencing on July 11. The charges each carry a term of up to four years, though it’s doubtful he would receive consecutive terms if any time at all, as a first-time, nonviolent offender in his 70s rather than a fine or a term of probation.

Merchan previously said repeated violations of the gag order he’s fined Trump thousands of dollars for disobeying at least 10 times could force him to resort to jail as punishment, which could factor in his decision.

The former president’s daughter-in-law, Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, who co-chairs the Republican National Convention, said on Fox Friday that the presumptive nominee would address his supporters at virtual rallies if Merchan takes away his liberty, whether by imposing jail time or house arrest.

Trump’s appeal must be filed with the mid-level appellate court in Midtown, where his lawyers spent much of the week leading up to his trial. Should he fail there, he could attempt to appeal to the New York’s Court of Appeals.

His attorneys have intimated that they plan to factor Merchan’s daughter’s work into their appeal along with the argument that he couldn’t get a fair trial in a liberal-leaning Manhattan.

The process will play out with Trump in the thick of his current bid for the presidency — he’s slated to be named the Republican nominee days after his sentencing — and while he’s facing more than four dozen felonies along the East Coast. All of the other cases have been backed up by Trump’s appeals and look unlikely to go to trial before November’s contest.

Should Trump beat Biden, he won’t be able to pardon himself in his New York case or the one in Georgia if it ends in a conviction.

On Friday at the White House, Biden said that a jury of ordinary New Yorkers had reaffirmed the American principle that no one is above the law.

He lashed out at Trump and his political allies for deriding the outcome, saying he could route his complaints through the courts.

“It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this is rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” Biden said.


(New York Daily News reporter Dave Goldiner contributed to this story.)